When they go to the polls in November, Illinoisans will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote by the General Assembly on any bill to increase pension or retirement benefits for government employees.
The proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 49, also would require a supermajority in the Statehouse for local governments and school districts requesting an increase in employee pensions through sweeteners such as bonuses or compensated time off.
Lawmakers voted earlier this year with overwhelming majorities in both chambers to ask voters to decide on the proposed amendment through a referendum question that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
State Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, and State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, both voted in favor of sending the question to voters. State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, was one of only two votes against the measure in the Illinois Senate.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has joined teachers unions to call on its members to oppose the amendment.
AFSCME officials say the proposed change would be undemocratic and would be "disastrous" for retirement security for government workers.
Although the amendment would require a supermajority to pass pension benefit increases, a simple majority vote would be required for benefit reductions, which has angered unions.
Some conservatives say the proposed amendment doesn't go far enough.
The Liberty Justice Center, the legal arm of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, said lawmakers should have pushed for a change to the constitution that would prohibit pension and retirement benefit increases unless, and until, they are fully funded.
In a statement, Diane Cohen, of the Liberty Justice Center, said pension benefit increases have been approved by supermajorities in the past, raising questions about whether the proposed amendment would put the brakes on any future increases.
"History shows that a supermajority voting requirement would have made virtually no difference in preventing the pension benefit increases and sweeteners approved by the legislature during recent decades," Ms. Cohen said. "Nor would it have prevented the pension crisis the state now faces."
Illinois has an estimated unfunded public pension liability of $83 billion across five pension funds, a huge drag on the state's finances. Lawmakers failed to agree on reforms to the pension system during a special session in August.
The issue likely is to be discussed again when lawmakers meet in January. Proposals to reduce the pension crisis include increasing contributions from workers, and shifting some pension costs onto downstate school districts.
Today is Monday, March 10, the 69th day of 2014. There are 296 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Numerous counterfeiters are around, taking advantage of the influx of currency to pass their worthless trash. 1889 -- 125 years ago: J.J. Reimers, secretary and treasurer of the Rock Island Lumber and Manufacturing Co., on behalf of that firm, contributed $500 toward construction of a new Methodist church. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Samuel Ryerson, county recorder, was re-elected president of the 19th District of Knights of Pythias. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Three condemnation suits have been filed by the city of Rock Island to acquire property needed for an approach to the Rock Island-Davenport bridge, which has been under construction since March 6. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Plans for an eight-story Sheraton Inn in downtown Rock Island were announced today at a luncheon meeting at the Gay Nineties sponsored by the Rock Island Chamber of Commerce. Cost of the structure is estimated at $2.5 million. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Representatives of the Hardee's Golf Classic and tournament sponsor Hardee's Food Systems may meet next week with PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman to discuss a possible change in the tournament dates.