The Chicago Employment Law Blog

State Senate Panel Votes Down New Pension Reform Bill

With the Illinois pension deficit at over $80 billion, it’s clear that legislative action must be taken. On Wednesday, however, a State Senate panel decided that a bill that would place much of the burden on local governments didn’t provide the change that’s needed.

In March, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the pension reform bill by a unanimous vote. The bill’s chances were quashed, however, when a panel of the Illinois Senate voted it down this week, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The bill would require local governments to pay for pension increases that result from their employment of former lawmakers. Rather than the state itself, the cities, villages, or other governments that employ retired lawmakers for brief periods of time would be required to pay their pension expenses.

“[The vote] says unfortunately part of the General Assembly doesn’t get it. … It’s almost a lack of recognition that there’s a problem and abuses are taking place,” House Republican leader and sponsor of the bill Tom Cross said recently.

Some senators who voted against the bill argue that the bill was the result of panic over a few incidents. The impetus of the bill was “people overreacting to, in most cases, very isolated incidents,” Sen. Donne Trotter stated.

Last year, the media exposed several high profile cases of former state lawmakers receiving large payments for very brief stints of work through some legal maneuvering. In one case, former Rep. Robert Molaro nearly doubled his $64,000 legislative pension by working one month as an aide to Chicago Ald. Edward Burke. Molaro was reportedly paid $12,000 for the advising job. He then annualized the payment over 12 months, and based his pension on a $144,000 salary.

Pension changes will soon head to the state’s voters. In November, Illinois residents will vote on a pension reform proposal that recently passed both the state Senate and the House.

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