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 Saturday, Aug. 2, the 214th day of 2014. There are 151 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Because of the National Fast, no paper will be issued from this office tomorrow. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Attracting considerable attention is a sunflower stalk 15 feet high and still growing in the yard of Dr. C. Speidel on 23rd Street in Rock Island. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The municipal bathing beach proposition came up again at the city commission's meeting and a proposition passed, provided that a locker room be constructed at the foot of 7th Street for the accommodation of the bathers. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for erecting a $14,000 warehouse to replace the frame structure at the rear of the Augustana Book Concern were announced. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Hours for tours of the new Deere & Co. Administrative Center on John Deere Road will be changed, effective Monday. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Tuesday night at the Great Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band gave its fans more than they possibly could have expected. The band took the stage at 9:07 p.m. and didn't leave until 10:40.