Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

May 13, 2013

Watchdog group says state must address pensions



Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says his plan is more likely to survive a court challenge over constitutionality because it gives employees a choice in benefits. In its report, The Civic Federation says it supports Democrat Madigan's plan because it offers a long-term plan and calls for fully funding pensions in 30 years; Cullerton's would fund about 90 percent in the same time frame.

Msall said the group would also like to see a proposal to move retirement costs to suburban and downstate schools, an idea lawmakers have argued over for some time. Shifting costs to schools isn't included in either plan but Madigan plans to hold hearings to finalize a plan.

Quinn outlined his plan earlier this year, which slashes roughly $400 million in education and $241 million from funds that are set in state statute. He also called for temporarily ending three tax breaks that would bring in $454 million for paying down bills.

The state's overall budget is $62.4 billion, which includes federal grants and other money generally limited to specific purposes other than day-to-day operations.

Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, billed the budget as a "corrective" proposal that addresses some past issues, including the unpaid bills. He also said that a contract agreement earlier this year with Illinois' largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, will result in about $900 million in health care savings. The three-year deal requires state workers to pay more toward health care and retirees to pay health insurance premiums for the first time.

However, the Civic Federation said it's hard to know if the $900 million number is accurate and few details have been released from Quinn's office.

"It seems like a very generous estimation," Msall said.

He added that the group also doesn't like temporarily ending the tax breaks if they aren't a part of a larger rewrite or overhaul of Illinois' tax code.

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