Press Release: Pension-Cutting Bill Heads to House Floor, We Are One Illinois Urges Lawmakers to Defeat It

May 26, 2011 

CHICAGO, IL—In an effort to protect the modest pensions of Illinois public employees, the statewide We Are One Illinois coalition is mobilizing its more than 1 million members —including firefighters, teachers, police, disability caregivers and other public servants—to urge legislators to oppose Senate Bill 512. The bill is likely to get a floor vote in the House tomorrow.

SB 512 would force public employees to either:

(1) pay up to twice as much or more for their existing modest pension;

(2) accept a sharply reduced pension; or

(3) earn no pension at all going forward, just a privatized account dependent on the whims of Wall Street.

In addition, the bill could further increase employee contribution rates every three years moving forward, forcing people to leave the pension system early. The resulting vicious cycle of individuals no longer contributing to the pension funds would destabilize the systems and ultimately wipe them out entirely. 

“By slashing the modest pensions earned by public servants this bill harms public employees, their families and the economic well-being of Illinois,” said Michael T. Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

The labor coalition pointed to strong opposition before this morning’s House committee from other prominent, concerned individuals and groups, including the state retirement system administrators, school district management and every public university statewide. In testimony before the committee, University of Illinois president Michael Hogan said the bill’s passage would undermine the university’s ability to compete, attract and retain qualified faculty and staff.

If SB 512 does pass, a lengthy and costly legal battle will ensue. “I want to remind every lawmaker that the Illinois Constitution clearly protects pensions, and that it is unconstitutional to reduce pension benefits or increase contributions of current public employees”, said Carrigan. “SB 512 violates this constitutional protection and we will take legal action if necessary.”

For interview requests please call 312-368-7533 or e-mail info@weareoneillinois.org.  More information on the coalition is available at www.WeAreOneIllinois.org