Illinois pension reform begins, not all on board with changes

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

MARION, Ill. - Late Tuesday afternoon, the Illinois legislature approved a fix for the state's $100 billion dollar pension crisis.

The plan now goes to Governor Pat Quinn who's said he will sign it.

The pension crisis in Illinois is the worst in the nation. The new agreement cuts cost of living increases and hikes up the retirement age for younger workers, angering the state's unions.

Retirees largely oppose the pension reform plan, and some of them vow that it will end up in court.

Bob Campbell looks over the proposed pension fix, but he isn't a fan.

"That is blatantly unconstitutional," said Campbell, President of the Williamson County Retired Teachers' Association.

Campbell has a significant stake in the fight, 33 years in education in Illinois.

He believes the pension problem's being balanced on the backs of retirees, like teachers, through promises that haven't been kept.

"We're going to take care of you in a retirement plan. We're going to give you a nice retirement. We're going to guarantee that it will increase with the cost of living. And now you're set for life. That's what we've been promised. And now the rug has been pulled out from beneath our feet," he said.

Retirees now get a 3% cost of living increase annually, but that would be scaled back based on the number of years they worked.

State employees 50 and older must miss one cost of living increase, those younger than 43 must miss five.

Younger workers may have to retire later, rather than at age 65.

"Very few bills like this are everybody wins," said Dr. John Jackson, with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Jackson said there isn't anymore time to waste. The debt affects the state's credit rating, making borrowing money for road projects and school construction more expensive. He said the money saved will stabilize the pension system.

Bob Campbell is one of many who doesn't believe it's fair state workers must pay for it.

"Save? That means it comes out of retiree benefits," he said.

Lawmakers backing the pension fix say it will save $160 billion and erases the state's liability by 2044.

Some workers could choose a 401-K style plan and get out of the state's pension program altogether.

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