State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said the most recent pension reform bill to pass a House committee only covers two of the state's five pension systems. (Capitol photo from Creative Commons Flickr user aka Kath)
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said he doesn't support the latest pension reform package because he doesn't think one major portion is constitutional.
A House committee approved a bill Monday that calls for higher employee contributions and freezes retirees' cost-of-living increases. Lang said he feels adjusting the COLA is a violation of the state's constitution.
"When people retired at a given age, they looked ahead at a promise that was given to them and they said, 'well, I can retire now because this cost of living adjustment is going to protect me,'" Lang said. "Some of these folks would never have retired when they did if they knew it was going to be taken away from them."
Lang said he doesn't see the package really going anywhere. A House committee approved the package 6-3 Monday, but the full House adjourned before considering it. He said that leaves Tuesday for the House to debate and approve it, and the Senate isn't even in town. The new General Assembly will be sworn in Wednesday at 12 p.m.
"So, if the House were to pass this and the Senate isn't here to also vote on it, it would not be passed before the deadline. There's a real issue as to whether it can even happen logistically. And, of course, there's an issue as to whether there's enough votes to pass it even if we did vote on it," Lang said.
If the bill were to pass, Lang said another piece of legislation would be needed because the bill only covers two of the state's five pension systems.
"If all five state pension systems are not under the same rules, then we could end up with a situation where teachers are treated differently than state workers, or members of the General Assembly are treated differently than university workers in terms of how the pension system works. And, I don't think that's fair or appropriate," Lang said.
The plan emerged over the weekend when the House reconvened for the final days of the lame-duck session.
The state's unfunded pension liability is estimated at roughly $96 billion, and Quinn says the deficit grows by $17 million a day.