for Public Educators in Illinois
By Thomas D. Wilson
In his budget address
on February 16, Governor Blagojevich said, “In 1970, the Illinois
constitution guaranteed pension benefits for existing employees.
But despite that constitutional guarantee, in every one of the last
35 years, the state has almost never paid everything it was supposed
to pay.” More accurately, Governor Blagojevich might have
emphasized that the State has not come close to meeting its obligation
for State pensions.
All five State retirement
systems were substantially underfunded, but I have checked the exact
figures for the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). In
the 21 year span from 1975-1995, the percentage the State paid as
its required contribution to SURS ranged from 22.82% to 55.37%.
In 16 of these 21 years the range was between 22.82%-37.61%. In
five of the years the range was 42.24%-55.37%. Overall for these
21 years, the State paid about 30% of its required contribution.
In each of these 21 years, employees paid 100% of their required
After the current funding
legislation passed in 1995, the State made its required contribution.
But the amount was much less than needed. This was a political compromise
to get a continuing appropriation and to ease the State into paying
its fair share. In all these years the retirement systems have been
losing not only the higher amounts the State should have paid but
also all the investment income from those amounts.
The Governor now wants to cut the State’s required pension
contribution by $800 million for next year. But even with all the
proposed pension “reforms,” savings will not occur for
several years. The Governor’s budget is a sham.
The bills to implement
the pension reforms have not been written, but based on the Pension
Commission report the pensions for new employees will be reduced
substantially and current employees will see some reduction. On
April 13 a number of groups interested in public education will
join together in Springfield for a noontime rally and a visit with