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House, Senate Pension Bills $28 Billion Apart

One goal of the 2013 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly has been to do something about the state’s pension systems, underfunded by an estimated $100 billion. With a week and a half to go before the scheduled adjournment, the House and Senate have passed competing bills. Neither chamber has taken up the other’s.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), the House sponsor, rolled out actuarial numbers Tuesday pointing to less savings in the Senate bill than even its sponsor had touted. “It’s my understanding that during the (Senate) debate, the (immediate) reduction off the unfunded liability would be in the neighborhood of $10 billion. Given the most likely choice (of benefits), it would appear to be $5 billion.” Nekritz says her bill would save $28 billion.

The Senate bill features a choice for pensioners: either a higher cost-of-living adjustment or state health insurance. That is key to the Senate argument its bill is constitutional, whereas the House bill anticipates a court challenge. Those were not arguments Nekritz cared to debate Tuesday. “For us, it’s always been about the math,” she said.

In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson for Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), sponsor of the Senate bill, said, “We would characterize the information as incomplete. We are awaiting additional information from the pension systems.”

SB 1 is the House bill.

SB 2404 is the Senate bill.