Local lawmakers credit two suburban-Chicago state legislators, Rep. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, for offering a new proposal to fix Illinois’ pension crisis with the filing of House Bill 6258. They project it could save the state $2 billion in 2013 and reduce unfunded liability by $30 billion.
But a component of their plan simply referred to as “shift” would likely draw a nay vote locally if the plan in its current form and language was introduced on the floor for a vote now.
“There are certain parts of the plan worth considering. Their proposal has the shift, however, and as a downstate legislator, I can’t support it,” said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, about shifting some costs for teacher pensions to local school districts as pro-posed in the bill.
Southern Illinois school districts have already lost revenue the past few years with decreased and sporadic state funding. Most districts are operating on a bare minimum now and with the additional responsibility of funding teacher pensions, that would create another 12 to 15 percent drop to fund general operations within a school district, Bost said.
Although he is not taking an emphatic “no,” to the proposal, state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said in his visits with school officials within his district, a proposed shift of funding some costs for teacher pensions from local school districts would hit a brick wall in garnering support.
“Most schools I know are struggling already. I can’t imagine any referendum passing,” Luechtefeld said about school districts having to call for bond approval from voters to help fund incurred costs for such items as teacher pensions.
Luechtefeld said it’s been awhile since he has reviewed the bill and senses House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Sen-ate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, “have not really bought into it.”
Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said many provisions of the bill are items that legislators have seen surface before and the shift proposal would make it “a difficult bill for us to swallow downstate.”
He credits the two lawmakers for working to come up with solutions to save the pension system, but said “I don’t know if this is the solution.”
Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said in his conversations with school superintendents and principals, funding teachers pensions could possibly work if the payment schedule was phased in and state funding was guaranteed.