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Legislators unveil pension reform proposal with opposition

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The General Assembly cut short its annual veto session Wednesday. But, just before heading home, 20 legislators unveiled a pension reform proposal that they claim could save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. There's plenty of opposition.

That includes state employees who would have to pay 2% more of their salaries while accepting a small reduction in benefits.

She may look too young to have worked for the State of Illinois for 37 years, but Revenue Analyst Pat Ousley has plans to retire after four more, with an annual pension of about $45,000. She fears it won't be enough, despite the stereotype.

"The problem with most people who are not working for government, they think government workers have it easy and this is Easy Street. Talking about you got, you can have Cadillacs when you leave here. And you can't!" proclaims Ousley.

Ousley's President of the AFSCME union's Local 1006, and a trustee of the State Employee Retirement System. It's just one of several grossly mismanaged state pension funds now demanding that taxpayers cover more than $100 billion in unfunded liabilities. It's the worst such crisis in America and it's forcing the General Assembly to cut every other part of the budget, including hundreds of millions from education.

"If we truly believe that the children are, indeed, our future, then we must act now on this situation," says Rep. Will Davis (D).

"The pension issue is the most serious public policy issue facing the State of Illinois. It is not a Democrat issue. It is not a Republican issue," says Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights).

The biggest savings proposed by the bipartisan group of House members would apply annual cost-of-living increases only to the first $20,000 to $25,000 of pensions and not until age 67 or five years afterretirement, whichever comes first.

Many government employees oppose such cuts.

"If it means a tax increase, so be it," says Ousley.

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