A Cook County employee pension reform proposal could soon be ready to appear before the state legislature.
Eric Madiar, a lawyer for Senate President John Cullerton, is currently looking over the pension legislation for Cook County workers, Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon told the Chicago Sun-Times.
However, “It’s very, very early in the drafting process,” Phelon stressed, adding that, “It’s not on our radar for anything that happens this week.”
The office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has not yet provided specifics about the pension reform plan. Someone with information on the proposal's details told the newspaper that county workers hired prior to 2010 would see their pension contributions increase from the current 8.5 percent, which is the amount for majority of the public employees, to 10.5 percent.
The bill reportedly includes a longer wait for future retirees to receive cost-of-living increases, which would also change from the current 3 percent to between 2 percent and 4 percent a year. The rate of inflation would determine cost-of-living increases, the newspaper reported. Additionally, retirees would see cost-of-living increases suspended in 2016 and such a halt to reoccur if the pension systems' funding levels drop below 59 percent.
The county would need an estimated $144 million a year in new revenue for its employee pension systems to be 100 percent funded within a 20-year period. It would be up to the Cook County Board, not the state legislature, to approve a possible sales or property tax increase, or both, as a means to shore up the county's pension funds.
Some 4,000 Cook County workers are represented by AFSCME Council 31, which does not back the pension measure.
“AFSCME, for our part, has indicated to the president’s office we wanted to work together to come up with legislation that everyone could support, and there has been some give and take,” AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall told the newspaper. “Then there was a point probably two weeks ago when the president’s office indicated they were done talking, that they didn’t have any more time. We told them very strongly that we wanted to continue work together, that we felt we could reach an agreement. But they were insistent on the outlines of their proposal without further discussion."
SEIU* Local 73 has endorsed the measure's “basic components,” union spokesman Adam Rosen told the newspaper. Crain's Chicago Business reports that the Illinois Nurses Association does not support the plan. Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey told Crain's that Preckwinkle's office has come to "a tentative agreement with the Teamsters."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.