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Report: Nekritz-Biss pension plan would create multibillion-dollar windfall for state

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Rep. Elaine Nekritz // AP Photo/Seth Perlman

SPRINGFIELD-The pension-reform package put forth earlier this month by a pair of North Shore House Democrats immediately would cut Illinois' $95 billion pension debt by almost 30 percent, a new financial analysis disclosed Friday.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Rep. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) released new number-crunching on their legislation from three of the state's five pension systems - analysis they said shows their plan would "achieve significant savings and make major strides toward stabilizing Illinois' finances."

Their plan would cut annual cost-of-living increases for retirees, make government workers pay more toward their retirement and hike the age when they can obtain full benefits.

It also would gradually shift the state's cost of covering pensions for suburban and downstate educators to the school systems that employ them.

Their report Friday showed that the state's unfunded pension liability - the gap between how much taxpayers owe current and future retirees and the amount of money actually on hand to pay them - would drop from $95 billion to $67 billion.

Their study predicted long-term payments to the pension systems would drop by 43 percent or $169 billion between now and 2045, and that next year's required pension payment would drop from $6.7 billion to $4.8 billion.

And by 2045, if their changes are adopted, the state would have to pay $11.7 billion in pension contributions rather than the projected $16.8 billion, a change that "represents a manageable growth trajectory for the next 30 years, replacing an unsustainable path that would crowd out key priorities of state government."

The data released Friday also showed that the financial hit on suburban and downstate school systems, who would be asked to shoulder the state's current burden in paying pension costs for educators Downstate and in the collar counties, would be smaller than a similar concept floated last spring by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Over 30 years, the cost of that shift on school districts would be $6.43 billion, compared to more than $20 billion under Quinn's cost-shift plan.

"I feel really good about these numbers," Biss told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They're where they need to be, and they'll be helpful in getting support. They demonstrate we're really solving the problem."

The analysis was performed for Biss and Nekritz by the Teachers' Retirement System, the State Universities Retirement System and the State Employees' Retirement System.

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