CHICAGO – Any fix for Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension mess should include provisions that the state make its full pension payment yearly and address cost-of-living increases and retirement age, Gov. Pat Quinn said Monday.
The Chicago Democrat — who's fought criticism that he waivers on how exactly he wants to overhaul Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension system — ticked off his wish list Monday, days after House lawmakers OK'd a third pension-related bill that's being celebrated by some as a breakthrough.
Quinn, who called the House action a step in the right direction, said he'd like a reform package to also make sure that pensionable salaries mimic the limit set for Social Security.
Illinois' five pension systems are a combined $96.7 billion short of what's needed to cover promised retirement benefits to current and former workers. Over the years, the state either shorted or skipped pension payments.
Quinn said that proposal should include a guarantee that Illinois will meet its annual required contribution.
"The state can never ever again not pay what it should pay every year to the pension account. That's why we're in this situation," he told reporters in Chicago.
Pensions have been Quinn's top issue for more than a year, but only recently has the flurry of pension-related bills surfaced. While lawmakers agree that it's the most pressing financial problem, they've disagreed over almost every aspect of how to fix it and the approach they should take. On the table are both comprehensive plans and smaller bills that go after the problem piece by piece. Several plans overlap ideas.
Last week, House lawmakers approved legislation to reduce and delay cost-of-living increases in state employees' retirement pay. House lawmakers have also approved a plan that would cap the salary on which benefits are based to the limit set for Social Security — currently about $113,000 a year. Another approved bill would delay the retirement age incrementally, based on workers' ages now; younger workers would have to retire later.
"We're not there yet, that was a very significant step," Quinn said Monday of the House bills. "We still have to work on our law that we get to my desk. We're on the right path."
In the Senate last week, lawmakers rejected a comprehensive plan that called for higher employee contributions and a funding guarantee, among other things. Senators instead approved a scaled-back plan, sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, which only addresses the Teachers' Retirement System, the largest of the five.
Illinois lawmakers left Springfield on Friday for a two-week vacation.