Pension overhaul passed in the House on Thursday


WPSD Reporters

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Many state workers, teachers and university employees are in limbo, waiting to see what the state will do with their pensions.

The state of Illinois is trying to make up some of it's deficit with a major pension overhaul.

The bill would make these changes if passed: it would raise the retirement age to 67, employees will have to contribute two-percent more of their salaries into their pensions, and they will set a cap on how much of an employee's earnings can be used to calculate their benefits of $109,000.

It seems that employees in the education communities are taking it the hardest.

The bill has only passed in the house.  It has a long way to go before it's signed into law, but still, teachers, retired and working alike, are very upset by this.

Director of College Relations at John A. Logan Steve O'Keefe was in Springfield as this bill made its way through the house.

He is very bothered that the majority voted yes.

"It should bother everyone, to know that you have contributed to a fund, you've done everything you're supposed to do," said O'Keefe.

He says that in the private sector, this type of money mis-management would have serious consequences.

"We have seen where people have gone to prison over these things," said O'Keefe.

Because this bill could potentially change the retirement age, O'Keefe is having to rethink his Golden Years.

"It could add nine years onto my time, to my career, and that's something you just didn't plan for, or at least I planned for," said O'Keefe.

By cutting and capping benefits and requiring people to work longer than they were originally told, the state will be able to make up about $30 billion, but it still won't be enough.

"There's still $70 billion out there that is going to have to be accounted for," said O'Keefe.

O'Keefe says if this bill passes, he will feel like he is being penalized for someone else's mistake.

"Not by the employees, not by the retirement system, not by the colleges, but by the legislature. By the state of Illinois," said O'Keefe.

He predicts that there will be many teachers who will retire early because they are fed up, leaving the state in even worse shape.

Local 6 reached out to Republican Representative Brad Halbrook for a comment. He stated in parts:

"The state is broke. Our financial situation is worse than it was two years ago. Something has to be done...if action is not taken, the money runs out."

He also says he encourages people to calculate exactly how much they would lose if this bill passes.

He says he is certain the cuts will not be as substantial as people are making them out to be.