SPRINGFIELD -- A controversial pension plan affecting university and state employees as well as downstate and suburban teachers cleared an Illinois House committee this morning, about 13 hours before the scheduled adjournment of the Legislature.
The House committee approved the pension bill, now spsonored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, on an 8-1 vote. Although Democrats on the panel expressed concerns and misgivings about the measure, all voted "yes." The only "no" vote came from Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, whose district includes thousands of state workers.
The new pension plan changed Wednesday night when House Speaker Michael Madigan gave up his sponsorship as well as a provision that would have required school districts and universities eventually to pick up the pension costs of their employees.
Rep. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, who had supported the earlier version of the legislation, praised the University of Illinois and President Robert Easter for supporting the pension changes. Easter had testified in favor of the original pension plan at a hearing Tuesday. No one from the UI or any other public university spoke Thursday on Cross' new plan.
"The cost-shift was a challenge for them. The benefits cuts were a challenge for their employees," Biss said. "And they were willing then to come here on Tuesday morning and testify for the bill that was tough for them and tough for their employees. And then they had to go back to the campus and explain to their employees that this is the right thing to do."
The pension reform measure still includes a provision that supporters say will save the state as much as $88 billion over the next 30 years, but which public employee unions say is not only unfair but unconstitutional.
It requires university employees, teachers, state workers and legislators in the various retirement systems to choose between using a state health care plan upon retirement but with a lower cost of living adjustment, or losing the state health care coverage but with the current 3 percent annually compounded cost of living raises.