Quinn: Delay retirement, charge employees more

April 20, 2012 2:47:34 PM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to fix the state's pension fund includes raising the retirement age to 67 for state employees and increasing their contributions by 3 percent.

He described his blueprint as a bold plan for reform but admitted the cost of his plan falls on state workers.

"I didn't create this problem, but I'm here to solve it," said Quinn. "I know I was put on earth to get this done."

The governor addressed the Medicaid deficit Thursday. The plan he unveiled Friday aims at reducing the $83 billion shortfall in the state's pension obligation.

"This will be phased in over several years," he said.

Quinn also wants lower and delayed cost-of-living increases for retirees and no more pensions for people who do not work directly in the public sector. He says the pension system would be fully funded by 2042.

"This saves between $65 and $85 billion for the people of Illinois through the period of time that we're talking about," he said.

"I think there are some real good components to this, and I applaud the governor and give him a lot of credit," said Rep. Tom Cross, (R) minority leader.

Republican General Assembly leaders, who suggested many of the same reforms years ago, were optimistic.

"If these points that are on the press release are actually implemented, it would be much to the benefit of the state," said Sen. Christine Radogno (R).

The governor's plan also called for suburban and downstate school districts, community colleges and universities to pay for their own employee pensions.

"I can see a reasonable opportunity to phase that in and get more savings," said Radogno.

But that's where Republicans will draw a line, believing the cost shift could mean higher school levies in the future.

"It's the equivalent to a billion, a little over a billion dollars to local schools and community colleges and universities," Cross said. "That in my mind is a property tax increase."

Current retirement benefits are protected by the state constitution. The governor says under his plan, employees will be asked to accept the changes or lose their retirement health benefits which are not guaranteed.