Cullerton Hopes To Tackle State’s Pension Liabilities

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) wants to tackle the state’s largest financial burden – unfunded pension liabilities – during the upcoming spring legislative session.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, during a meeting with reporters at his state Capitol office, Cullerton said there has not been enough movement on pension reform, and the Senate will likely take the reins. He maintains the House plan, which would require state employees to pay more to maintain benefits or pay the same and lose benefits, is unconstitutional.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

“I think we, in the Senate, can take the initiative to pass constitutional laws, not something that will be unconstitutional and only cost legal fees, and not do anything to strengthen the systems,” he said.

Cullerton has long said the House proposal is unconstitutional because it aims to diminish benefits for current employees, which isn’t allowed. The proposal barely passed out of committee during the fall Veto Session and hasn’t seen action since.

Cullerton says a compromise on gambling expansion is also likely. The House and Senate passed a bill during last year’s spring session that included new casino licenses and slot machines at horse racing tracks. Cullerton says the governor proposed a gambling bill similar to what lawmakers passed.

“It has the same principles that we passed,” he said. “That is, we wanted to have new casinos in areas where we border other states, and take advantage of the fact that they’re losing bettors to other states.”

Cullerton says Gov. Pat Quinn doesn’t want slot machines at tracks, but thinks tracks should get a larger portion of casino profits. The lawmaker-approved bill is still on hold, as the governor has vowed to veto it.

Cullerton says there’s not enough support to override a veto, should that happen.

  • tom sharp

    A good start would be to cut his own pension and those of his family and friends on the public dole–that would a lot of $ up front!

  • southside

    Who does Cullerton think actually spent the pension money?

  • Dominic

    Bend over taxpayers, here it comes. The pension program should be eliminated. It’s a scam on taxpayers. We already paid into the system, we shouldn’t have to pay again to make up for their ineptness. Change to 401K. After two to three years of retirement they already received all the money they put into it, and the rest of their lives it’s on us. They make more in retirement than they did their entire career. Also, the age to retire should be 66 not 55. 55 was the norm back when people didn’t live that long. Now is possible to be retired for 25-30 years, and in my surrounding districts that comes to about $3 million per teacher. And what really must be stopped is, tenure, raises for years of service and the pump me up scam the last couple of years to enlarge their pension. You know, like being a Fire Chief for a year, put in minimum time in that position, and collect the higher pension. Or make me an assistant principal to get a bump. WT?

    Quinn, Cullerton and Madigan must go.

    • Just the Average Joe

      Dominic, I will vote for you if you if you decide to serve. The other expensive perk is the 3% annual COLA for each retiree for life. The only real way to fix this system is to eliminate the pension plan and institute a 401K type program. We in IL know with certainty that government employees and these elected officials only serve themselves. Instituting a 401K plan eliminates corruption, and that is needed in IL.

  • rich

    And i’m sure this a–hole played a big part in all the backroom deals that put us in this hole.

  • Nick Chicago

    Mr Cullerton should start by eliminating full pensions for state reps and state senators who serve just ONE term in office.He won`t do that because it makes
    to much sense and help`s taxpayers!!!

  • Wolf

    This fraud should be ended and totally reformed….taxpayers should never pay for this multi-millionaire pension scam in the public sector…it is one of the main reasons the US private sector is being destroyed …but these politicians will never reform their benefits and that of their public sector army…

  • Jan Shaw

    IF stopping blatant fraud is unconstitutional, then lets get started on a constitutional amendment. Remove the line that says pensions cannot be diminished. Limit taxpayers liability, stop spiking, cap – perhaps recompute to what is affordable for each plan. Guaranty at least as much (maybe even twice as much) as social security would have paid for the same age/experience/ payments.

  • insider

    Is running a deficit in the 1st place against the stte constitution….after 30 yrs in legislature and voting for each deficit budget he might know that.. Sucking up to ASCMS and uniobns as usual

    • Jan Shaw

      I think so. you can read the IL constitution online (then click on IL constitution)

      It does allow for bond borrowing:
      State debt for specific purposes (3/5 house and senate – or – referendum)
      Up to 5% of anticipated revenues for the year (to be retired that year)
      Up to 15% of the State’s appropriations for that fiscal year to meet deficits caused by emergencies or failures of revenue. Pay back in one year.

      The current unfunded pension obligations are more than double the annual budget. Thus one could ague that promising the pensions in the first place was unconstitutional.

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