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Illinois lawmakers approve massive pension reform bill

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 4:23 p.m. CST

Illinois lawmakers narrowly approved a bill Tuesday intended to fix the state's pension crisis by providing $160 million in savings over the next 30 years.

The bill, approved by both the Illinois House and Senate, plans to guarantee full funding of the state's pension systems by 2044, according to the Illinois Senate Democrats website

Opponents of the bill, including labor unions, say the deal punishes workers who paid into the pension system for years, but will now suffer because of the state's failure to make payments and other mismanagement.

Some Republicans said the bill's cuts were not deep enough. Labor unions have said they will challenge the bill's constitutionality

“This landmark legislation is a bipartisan solution that squarely addresses the most difficult fiscal issue Illinois has ever confronted," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement.

The House voted 62-53 for the plan, sending it to Quinn, who has said he will sign it.The Senate approved the bill 30-24 earlier Tuesday.

The bill affects workers in five different pension funds, including state workers and most of the public school teachers in Illinois outside of Chicago.

Morton High School District 201 Superintendent Michael Kuzniewski said it was too early to comment on the bill.

"We haven't even been privy to the actual language yet. To comment would be premature," Kuzniewski said via email.

Illinois lawmakers failed for years to take action to fix what is considered the worst public pension problem in the nation. The massive underfunded liability has caused credit rating agencies to downgrade Illinois' rating.

The bill raises the retirement age for current workers 45 and younger, on a sliding scale, and also cuts back the 3 percent cost of living increases to only be applied to certain benefits. Workers will contribute one percent less to the plan.

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