Unable to come to grips with the need for comprehensive pension reform, Governor Quinn and his legislative allies lawmakers punted, failing to take action on reforms to the state’s five retirement systems, said State Sen. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), instead considering—and ultimately failing to pass—a limited bill that would have applied only to the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS).
The failure to accomplish meaningful reforms came as little surprise to most lawmakers, Sen. Sandack said, since the Governor seemed to have little idea about what he intended to accomplish after he called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session on Aug. 17. Following the failed session, Republican Leaders again pledged support of comprehensive reforms in order to avert a financial collapse of the state's retirement systems and called on the Governor to offer more than bromides.
“The day was a waste of time and money,” Sen. Sandack said. “Perhaps rather than wasting more time and money, the Governor will pick a bill to champion and then attempt to garner support for it before calling legislators back to Springfield on the taxpayer’s dime.”
Sen. Sandack noted that it cost taxpayers approximately $40,000 to bring the legislators back to town. Considering the cost to the taxpayers and the waste of the day, he signed a letter to decline his mileage reimbursement and per diem for the special session.
The proposal offered in the House and contained in an amendment to Senate Bill 3168, offered current and retired General Assembly members the choice between retaining their existing benefits but losing access to state-sponsored health insurance, or retaining access to the health insurance system but accepting more modest cost of living increases after retirement. House lawmakers adjourned without passing the measure after a vote on the amendment revealed the bill did not have the 60 votes needed to advance.
Many House Republican lawmakers, as well as some Democrat legislators, voted against the measure, calling instead for comprehensive reforms that would apply to all five state retirement systems. Most who voted against the measure criticized the measure’s limited savings, which were estimated at between $41 and $43 million in the short-term.
In contrast, under new, more accurate, accounting standards that are likely to soon be adopted by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Illinois' pension liabilities are expected to be pegged at as much as $146 billion. Moody's Investor Services has also indicated that it will adopt similar stringent standards. Looking forward, without reform of all state retirement systems, between now and 2045 Illinois will pay more than $630 billion toward state retiree pension obligations.