Madigan Drops Plan to Shift Pension Costs to School Districts

Under pressure from Illinois Republicans and Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan announced he's dropping his proposal to shift teacher pension costs to local school districts.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) on Wednesday dropped his controversial proposal to shift the costs of teacher pensions from the state to local school districts, universities and community colleges.

The announcement came after two days of spirited debate over pension reform in both the House and Senate.

Madigan's plan, which was part of Senate Bill 1673, was widely criticized by Republicans, and threatened to derail other legislation to address the state's massive pension shortfall.

Madigan said he reached the decision after Gov. Pat Quinn asked him to drop the amendment, the Associated Press reports.

“He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the issue of the shift of normal cost out of the bill,” Madigan told the House on Wednesday night. “I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor. This is his request.”

Quinn's request was a shift from his previous position. Jerry Stermer, the governor's budget director, told Illinois Statehouse News that "forcing school districts and colleges to pay employees' retirement benefits is the responsible thing to do" since school boards negotiate teachers' pay.

Stermer added that the governor would support anything that could fix the state's unfunded pension liability.

The bill was handed over to House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who slammed Madigan on Tuesday, calling his proposal a "poison pill" to kill pension legislation.

Plans to remove Madigan's amendment will be considered by a House Panel on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Illinois currently has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability—$44 billion of which is from the Teachers' Retirement System.

With the cost-shift language off the table, lawmakers could vote on a comprehensive pension reform plan before the legislative session ends Thursday night.

Local officials have objected to the proposed shift, saying it could be tough for Wheaton Warrenville Community Unit School District 200.

"With 1,500 employees in this district it could be a big burden," District 200 Superintendent Dr. Brian Harris said at with area lawmakers.

District 200 spokesman Erica Loiacono said if Senate Bill 1673 passed today—based on the district's current payroll—it would cost the district about $870,000 in the plan's first fiscal year of 2014.

Check back with Patch on Thursday for comments from local school districts.

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OldGreenBay June 01, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Current and recently retired legislators who have allowed the pension funds to continue unfunded should not be allowed to receive any pensions or retirement benefits of any kind until this issue is resolved. Watch a more reasonable bill get passed. If not, watch our educational related property taxes soar. oldgreenbay@gmail.com
Mark Johnson June 01, 2012 at 09:34 PM
The best pension resource is Illinois Pension Scam by Bill Zettler published April 1, 2012. CUSD200 provides 6% end of career salary increases to teachers & administrators each of their last 4 years, resulting in larger pensions. That's a 24% salary increase (actually more because of compounding) over 4 years. The classified employees (maintenance, secretaries, food service, etc.) do not receive the perk. CUSD200 students attend school 176 days per year. Teachers attend an additional 4 institute days & a teacher work day for a total of 181 days. Students attend 2 hours the first & last day of the year, with preschoolers & kindergartners not attending those two days. Elementary students attend 9:15AM - 3:30PM (6:15), with a 30 minute lunch & 30 minute recess. Middle school students attend 8:06AM - 3:00PM (6:54), with a 30 minute lunch, (8) 45 minute periods, with 3 minutes between classes. High school students attend 7:20AM - 2:15PM (6:55), with (5) 46 minute and (3) 50 minute periods, with 5 minutes between periods. One of the 50 minute periods consists of a 23 minute lunch, 23 minute Access study hall, and 4 minute passing period. In the upcoming 2012-13 school year high schools will add 12 late start days, allowing teachers to collaborate and train, resulting in a 8:38AM - 2:15PM (5:37) student day, with (5) 34 minute and (3) 44 minute periods. One of the 44 minute periods consists of a 20 minute lunch, 20 minute Access study hall, and 4 minute passing period.
Mark Johnson June 01, 2012 at 09:38 PM
The CUSD200 high school late start dates will be September 5, 19; October 3, 17; November 7, 28; December 12; January 30; February 27; March 13; April 10; & May 1. Those late starts are included in the 176 day student calendar.


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