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Pension reform remains elusive, necessary

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 8:33 a.m. CST
(Herald Photo by Eric Lutz)
State Representatives Pam Roth, Darlene Senger and Elaine Nekritz, from left, along with State Senator Sue Rezin discuss pension reform at Saratoga Elementary School in Morris Monday.

Pension reform will require tough decisions, State Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris) and State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said Monday at a pension forum at Saratoga Elementary School.

Along with State Representatives Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) and Darlen Senger (R-Naperville), pension experts in their caucuses, the state leaders discussed possible bills and answered questions from the large audience in attendance.

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of good ideas to get us there,” Rezin said.

According to Rezin, there are three considerations when mulling potential pension legislation.

The first, she said, is the constitutionality of the bill.

The next is ensuring that pensions are 100 percent funded in 30 years.

Finally, the final bill must use “strong language” to prevent missed payments in the future, she said.

But, Rezin emphasized, “the process is fluid and includes a lot of moving parts.”

Rep. Senger gave background, saying that the system got to where it is because the state borrowed money to pay for pensions in the mid-2000s and skipped two payments.

Rep. Nekritz called the Illinois pension system an “enormous problem” and called for bipartisanship to solve it.

Public frustration with the system was on display during the question-and-answer section of the meeting, during which several audience members suggested retired teachers are being unfairly targeted.

Legislators are putting solutions on the backs of the people who paid into it, one audience member said.

Rep. Roth disagreed.

“It’s not intended to target any one group,” Roth said.

“We feel your frustration,” Rezin added. “But if we do nothing, this is not going to go away.”

Roth emphasized the difficulty of the problem and said it was important for public officials and residents to keep honest discussion going.

“It’s a very, very fluid process,” Roth said. “This is probably the worst part of my job.”

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