CHICAGO (CBS) — State employee unions said Wednesday they’re willing to chip in more of their salaries toward retirements, if the state of Illinois guarantees that it will fully fund its responsibilities toward workers’ pensions.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports “We Are One Illinois” – a coalition of unions representing police, firefighters, teachers, state laborers, and other government workers – said it’s not fair and, frankly, not even possible to eliminate the state’s $96 billion unfunded pension debt just by trimming employee benefits.
Ted Street, president of the Illinois Fraternal order of Police, said employee unions are willing to up their pension contributions, if the state guarantees its own future pension payments, and raises revenue to pay for it. For years, the state has delayed or short-changed its pension obligations to use the money for other expenses.
“We Are One Illinois proposes closing approximately $2 billion in tax loopholes to bolster revenues. The economic effectiveness of some tax loopholes is questionable,” Street said.
Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said unions would be willing to increase their contributions by 2 percent, but the state must close tax loopholes to help fund its own pension payments.
He compared the situation to the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington, D.C.
“In Washington, you have Republicans saying ‘Yeah, we know we need revenue.’ I have yet to hear that from even liberal Democrats in Illinois. So there has to be a wakeup to reality here that this solution cannot be solved solely on the backs of the workers here,” he said.
Some of the coalition’s proposed measures – like taxing cable and satellite companies’ franchise fees; offshore drilling; and music, movie, and book downloads – are not seen as likely by some lawmakers.