Debate to focus 
on pension reform

CRYSTAL LAKE – Pension reform will be the topic of a debate Tuesday hosted by the Illinois Policy Institute at McHenry County College.

The free debate will be at 7 p.m. at the college, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called the General Assembly back to Springfield on Friday for a special session to address pension reform after a last-minute pitch to enact meaningful reform May 31 was unsuccessful.

The five state-run pension systems for teachers, university professors, judges, state employees and state legislators are underfunded by at least $83 billion.

The governor previously has suggested that the burden of teacher pensions be shifted to local school districts over a 12-year period.

Quinn has called the issue “the foremost fiscal challenge facing the state of Illinois today, tomorrow, forever.”

State Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, and Northwest Herald News Editor Kevin Lyons will moderate the debate.

Representatives from the Illinois Education Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers and Crystal Lake School District 47 also have been asked to participate, as well as Illinois Policy Institute employee Diana Rickert.

A recent poll by the institute found that nearly half of likely voters oppose asking school districts to pay the employers’ share of the teachers’ pension cost, while the other half of likely voters are split between indecision and favoring the proposal.

“The poll indicates that the public needs more information on how local pension accountability would affect school and taxpayers, and that they are confused about who owns this policy in the state house,” Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the institute, said in a news release.

Democratic leaders who support the shift have proposed a phase-in that would cost Illinois school districts $97 million in the first year and $580 million in the fifth year.

The shift likely would put local school districts in a financial bind, opponents have argued.

Quinn released numbers in May detailing the pension shift at two paces.

Under the more aggressive scenario, District 158 would pay $9.84 million total in the first five years, starting in 2014. District 300 in Carpentersville would pay $23.43 million. Districts 47 and 155 in Crystal Lake would pay $10.74 million and $10.46 million, respectively.

The bill would have save the state $65 billion to $115 billion, according to the governor’s office.

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