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JBT-SB1Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant issued a statement following her vote against a House pension reform proposal. 

“Senate Bill 1 aimed to fix our pension problems on the backs of our state employees, teachers and retirees of their retirement security. The bill cuts benefits so dramatically that it could leave retired suburban and downstate teachers with less in benefits than they would legally be entitled to, had they qualified for Social Security. This is no way to treat the people who have spent their lives in public service.”

The bill, Senate Bill 1, slashes retirement benefits for working men and women. Bertino-Tarrant felt that the legislation goes too far and forces families to cut too deep.  The constitutionality of Senate Bill 1 has also been placed in question.

42 Senators voted against the measure with only 16 members voting for it.

The Senate recently introduced and passed a union coalition supported pension proposal. Since the Senate passage of this legislation, many questions have arisen. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Senate Bill 2404.

1. How does SB 2404 guarantee the General Assembly will fulfill their obligation to the pension funds?

Senate Bill 2404 has a funding guarantee provision included in the language to ensure that the state cannot skip or short payments to the state’s retirement systems. This fixes the fundamental, chronic problem of state underfunding and ensures that future legislatures and governors will continue to preserve the reforms enacted within the legislation.  Should the state not make its full pension payment, the retirement systems are required to take the state to court. If the retirement systems do not proceed with court action, any employee or retiree can do so themselves.

2. Which unions are involved?

The We Are One coalition represents more than 1 million workers statewide.  The group was formed with the sole purpose of working to protect public employee pensions. The coalition includes representatives from the following union groups: Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, AFSCME Council 31, Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Service Employees International Union, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, National Pension Coalition, United Transportation Union, Laborers International Union of North America - Chicago District Council, AFSCME International Union, National Education Association, Fraternal Order of Police - Lodge 7 Chicago, Fireman's Association of Chicago - Local 2, Illinois Nurses Association and Teamsters Local Union #700.

3. When does the bill take effect?

Should the legislation pass the House, as it is currently drafted, it would then be signed by the governor and would take effect July 1, 2013.  However, the House of Representatives still as the option to amend the language in Senate Bill 2404 and then send it back to the Senate for approval. 


4. Can you please explain the following graph?

SB 2404 Summary

The above graph shows the different options that will be available to public employees, should Senate Bill 2404 pass in its current form. 

  •  Current employees are given three options: 
  1. Delay COLAs by 2 years upon retirement and agree to a 3% simple, instead of 3% compounded formula on their future COLA benefits.  
  2. Keep 3% compounded COLA in exchange for giving up access to state retiree healthcare program.
  3. Keep 3% compounded COLA as well as their retiree healthcare.  To do so, employees are asked to take a three-year delay to COLA benefits upon retirement and pay more out of their salaries until they retire.
  • Retirees are given two options:
  1. Accept a staggered two-year COLA freeze after which a compounded COLA would return.
  2. Give up access to retiree health care to keep the compounded COLA.


5. What reforms have been done to legislators’ pensions?

GARS, the pension system for members of the General Assembly, has been included in every comprehensive pension reform proposal introduced thus far, including this one.


6. What are the major differences between Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2404?

• Senate Bill 1 makes more dramatic changes to the COLA formula than Senate Bill 2404, including a flat $900 annual increase on all pension incomes greater than $30,000.
• Senate Bill 1 raises retirement age, which Senate Bill 2404 does not.
• Senate Bill 1 freezes COLA increases until the age of 67 or 5 years after retirement, whichever comes first.  Senate Bill 2404 freezes COLA for only 2-3 years, depending on employee choice.

7. Who can I contact with questions?

Please always feel free to e-mail or call your State Senator’s Capitol of District Office if you have additional questions.

OnlineChartersSenator Jenifer Bertino-Tarrant is asking both proponents and opponents of online charter schools to take a deep breath and relax.

There has been a great deal of public outcry regarding legislation that creates a one-year hold on further development of online charter schools in Illinois. The delay would allow for studies of similar schools in other states.

Proponents of online charter schools claim that this learning platform is the most significant advancement in the way we educate our children since the internet, while opponents worry that by not properly regulating online education, students could fall through the cracks and not receive a quality education.

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