With reporting by Dave McKinney
SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois House voted Thursday to limit compounding annual cost-of-living increases for state retirees in a constitutionally questionable move targeting the largest driver of the state's $97 billion pension crisis.
The Senate-bound measure, sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), passed the House on a 66-50 roll call and would affect current and retired state workers, university employees, legislators and downstate and suburban teachers. Judges weren't included.
Under the measure, current and future public employees would have to wait until age 67 or five years after retirement to begin collecting annual increases on retirement benefits. Public employees' annual cost-of-living increases would be capped at a compounding, 3-percent on the first $25,000 of their retirement annuities. Retirement income greater than $25,000 would increase by a flat $750 per year.
"This single benefit is the most expensive single component of the pension systems," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who presented the measure on the House floor. "As painful as it is we will never get the increasing pension costs under control if we don't address [the COLA's]."