SPRINGFIELD - Wednesday, the Illinois House passed in a 74 to 43 vote House Speaker Mike Madigan's legislation would end free health care benefits for retired Illinois state legislators, university employees, judges and state employees.
Every person that spoke on the House floor referred to SB 1313 as a "hard vote to make," and voiced concern about retirees feeling the state was not keeping the promises made.
"The state's 78,000 retirees pay no premiums now, and that costs the state of Illinois $800 million a year," Madigan said. SB 1313 would require state retirees to pay a premium determined by Illinois' Central Management Services. CMS will propose the amounts retirees will pay and those recommendations would be made to the JCAR, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative committee.
"Health care benefits wil not be taken away," GOP Leader Tom Cross said, "Health care will simply be no longer free. We also want to consider means testing. And finally, JCAR will have the final say on what the retirees will pay."
When asked by Rep. Kenneth Dunkin who is representing the union retirees in the ongoing negotiations between Central Management Services and AFSCME, Speaker Madigan said AFSCME is representing active employees only, not AFSCME retirees.
"The retirees should have a voice in the process," Dunkin said. "If AFSCME is representing only active employees, someone needs to speak for their retirees."
"Realize that we're up against the wall now, and if we don't become more sensible with operations of state, we may have to make cuts for those mentaly ill," State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) said. "This is not perfect. I wish it was. I wish I could do nothing in response to the many calls I've gotten. Should I do nothing or should I do my job that I've been sent here to do."
"Today is the start of making some very tough decision. A politician is someone who votes for the next election. A statesman votes for the next generation. Ladies and gentlemen, we must vote for the next generation," Bost said.
SB 1313 will need to go back to the Illinois Senate for consensus before the end of the spring session.