An Illinois pension study committee from the Park Forest Area, Palos-Orland Area and the Homewood-Flossmoor Area League of Women Voters spent the last few months studying the five Illinois State Employee Retirement systems: TRS -- Teachers Retirement System; SURS -- State University Retirement System; SERS -- State Employee Retirement System; JURS -- Judges Retirement System; and GARS -- General Assembly Retirement System.
Syvia Tillman (H-F LWV), Chairperson of the Study Committee, states, "These pension systems have not been regularly funded by the General Assembly for at least thirty years. The legally required payments have been diverted to other State expenses and now the pension systems are owed $85 billion by the State to assure they are fully funded. This is a critical debt that needs to be resolved. League cannot advocate or lobby on the issue of pensions if we do not have a position. The purpose of the study is to develop a position so we can take action."
To gain an understanding of the complex problems and systems -- which all have unique operations -- many of the members of the committee attended a panel discussion of the issues in the middle of October in Palos Heights. Presenters included Scott Unler, an attorney who represents school districts, Dick Ingram, executive director of TRS, and State Representative Bill Cunningham of the 35th District.
At the completion of the study, the HF-Area and Park Forest Area Leagues decided to hold their consensus meeting together; Palos-Orland held its own meeting. Following the presentation of material, League members engaged in lively discussions. Consensus questions discussed included sixteen potential changes such as raising the retirement age, increasing the minimum number of years of service requirement for full retirement, increasing required employee contribution to the pension plan, strengthening anti-spiking provisions, and establishing maximum annual pension benefits.
Reports on the results of the consensus meetings must be sent to the State League office no later than November 16. After that the state committee will collate the results from local league reports to formulate a position.
Those interested in learning more about this pension study can access comprehensive information at LWVIL.org -- pension study.