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Our View: Small step in pension reform

Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We don't often agree with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, but his statement this week regarding pension reform was correct: The pension reform bill passed last week in the Illinois House is a good start.

House Bill 1165 was approved March 21. The measure caps the 3 percent annual cost-of-living adjustment for existing retirees to only the first $25,000 of income for four of the five state-run pension systems. It also pushes back the eligibility for COLA increases to age 67 or five years after retirement.

As Quinn said, it's a good start. But it's far from the comprehensive pension reform the state needs.

Missing from the House legislation is raising the retirement age and the need for employees to contribute a larger share toward the cost of health insurance. Caps on pension payouts should be instituted, especially for those annually pulling in six-figure salaries. And the reform needs to include judges pensions, even if they ultimately will decide the constitutionality of any reform that is approved by lawmakers.

For all the House bill is missing, it's far better than the pension reform legislation that passed in the Senate last week. It addressed only teachers pensions, and proposed forcing downstate and suburban teachers to choose between getting a 3 percent COLA or state health insurance once they retire.

As state Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, said, the Senate bill “isn't even a step forward.”

All but one of McHenry County’s representatives in the House voted for HB1165. The lone no vote came from Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, who voted against the bill on the grounds it would not survive a court challenge by the state’s powerful public sector unions.

“I’m really worried that this would pass, we take a budget credit, spend that money, and then lose in court," Tryon said.

Republican State Treasurer Dan Rutherford disagrees, and we agree with his assessment of the situation.

Said Rutherford: "Inaction because of fear of a lawsuit is unacceptable."

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