Saving state pension system is simple math, lawyer argues
Chicago attorney Eugene Keefe says he’s frustrated by union attacks on bills that could help solve Illinois’ pension problem.
Unions are opposing House Bills 4027 and 4045, similarly worded measures that Keefe argues would prevent state pensions from growing so much that the state can’t pay for them.
By the end of the special legislative session in June and early July, HB4207 had passed the House and was on hold for a third Senate reading. HB4045 remained in the House, awaiting a vote.
Under the bills, anyone covered by the state pension plan would be required to choose between having pay raises count toward their pensions while losing the annual 3 percent compounded raises in their plans, or maintain the 3 percent increases but lose pension hikes based on pay raises.
Keefe said the measures could save the state at least $1 billion.
Public employees would also have the option to forego pension increases by taking a lump-sum buyout of their pension, according to the State Journal-Register.
“I think anything that limits the unfunded and unfundable pensions in the state of Illinois is helpful,” Keefe, a partner at Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates, told the Sangamon Sun.“With 50,000 to 60,000 state workers, the math on this is just simple math. It isn’t a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It’s just math and it is bankrupting the state.”
One union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, sent out an email calling the cuts proposed in the bills “unconstitutional.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that the unions are fighting it like crazy because the unions fight anything that cuts their pensions,” Keefe said. “I haven’t seen anything from the unions where they come up with anything moderate, anything that would be workable,” Keefe said. “All they do is sit back and fight.”
Keefe worries that the unions will have enough power to block passage of the bills, which are still under consideration in the House.
“To see the unions fighting any efforts to peel it back a little bit or make it more affordable for government is sad to see, but at some point the system is going to collapse,” Keefe said.