Registered Illinois voters are getting a blue mailer from the Secretary of State's office about a constitutional amendment on next month's ballot. (Ryan Denham/WJBC)
By Stephanie Pawlowski and Jim Anderson
BLOOMINGTON - A state constitutional amendment on the ballot this year would make it harder to increase public employees pensions.
The amendment requires a three-fifths majority of the governing body to raise pension benefits. Secretary Treasurer of the Illinois Education Association Albert Lorenz said that's a problem.
"This is going to empower just a few folks, so if you go to 60 percent of seven, then five people would have to been in agreement, which means that the minority of the board would have to outweigh the majority," Lorenz said.
A coalition of public employee unions is opposing the measure. State Rep. Jason Barickman (R-Champaign) said the intent of the measure is to stop targeted groups or people from getting sweetened pension deals.
"What we're attempting to do with this constitutional amendment is create a higher threshold vote that must be taken before a future pension benefit is given," Barickman said. "If a future governing body - the legislature, the school board, you name it - attempts to give a pension benefit or enhancement to an existing pension benefit, that future action will require a three-fifths vote of a governing body."
Barickman said the referendum was not proposed as a back-door way to reform current pensions but stop sweetened pension deals in the future.
Lorenz said it will be a problem for teacher recruitment.
"Anytime you don't have a package that a professional would want to sign onto for life, it is going to inhibit your ability to recruit and retain good folks in the teacher workforce," Lorenz said.
Barickman said he thinks any action on pension benefits will probably end up in court.
Stephanie Pawlowski can be reached at Stephanie.Pawlowski@Cumulus.com