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House Lawmakers Propose Pension Reform Plan

Teachers and state employees would retire later and pay more into their pensions under a new proposal for pension reform.
   
A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the house is introducing its ideas to deal with Illinois' pension funding crisis.

"The proposal we're putting forward is going to involve sacrifice from everyone," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democratic sponsor of the bill.

 Twenty-one House lawmakers are sponsoring a new plan to tackle the state's pension funding crisis.
   
The group is mostly Democrats, mostly from the Chicago area.

"It's not a Democrat issue, it's not a Republican issue," said Rep. David Harris, a Republican. "We can disagree how we got here, but we have to solve it."
   
For employees hired before 2011, the group proposes delaying retirement by one to five years on a sliding scale, for workers under the age of 46. The plan would require workers to contribute two percent more to their own pensions. It would also apply cost-of-living adjustments only to the first $25,000.
   
For workers hired after 2011, the proposal would place teachers and university employees in a cash balance plan with a guaranteed minimum benefit. It would allow school districts to negotiate the cost and generosity of pensions with employees.
   
The plan would also gradually shift the cost of teacher pensions from the state to school districts over the next 30 years, at a rate of a half-percent per year.
  
"The main thing is we need help with the actuarial numbers," said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno. "I've talked to the governor's office about getting those numbers because we can't determine if something works without good actuarial numbers."   

Radogno says that'll be key to her chamber's consideration of the bill.

"There will be additions, modifications, deletions, changes, but we've got to move forward," Harris said.   
   
Sponsors say the proposal is a starting point. But, one non-profit organization says it doesn't go far enough.
 
"We're keeping that defined benefit system, we're going to see the same problems," said Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute. "We're promising too much."

Senate President John Cullerton says the proposal appears to impose pension reductions, without voluntary acceptance from employees.
   
That calls into question whether the plan is constitutional.
   
Unions representing state workers are reacting.

The "We Are One Illinois" coalition says an initial review shows significant problems with the plan that need to be worked through.

"This proposal essentially balances the pension debt on the backs of teachers, police officers, nurses, caregivers, and other public servants both active and retired," the group said in a statement.

Lawmakers aren't scheduled to return to the Capitol until next month.