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Bill stripping mass-transit boards of pensions heads to governor

Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013 11:02 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, May 16, 2013 11:33 p.m. CST
Caption
(AP photo)
Illinois Rep. Jack D. Franks, D-Woodstock, (left) argues legislation with Illinois Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, looks on while on the House floor Wednesday in Springfield.

A bill stripping pension and insurance benefits from future appointees to Chicago-area mass-transit boards is on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

House Bill 140, filed by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, takes pension and insurance benefits away from future members of the boards of the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority.

It will not affect current appointees, but their pensions will stop accruing and their insurance will cease if they are reappointed after their terms expire.

“Their function is to be outside directors, and they have a fiduciary obligation to look out for the taxpayers, but instead it’s been changed for these folks to be treated as if they’re full-time employees and get the perks and benefits of full-time employees,” Franks said.

The bill Wednesday cleared the Senate on a 54-0 vote. It sailed through the House last month, 106-0 with one voting present.

All of McHenry County’s representatives in the General Assembly supported it – Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, carried the bill in the Senate.

The original bill stripped appointees of their salaries as well as benefits, but was amended as a compromise measure to ensure passage. A member of the RTA board gets $25,000 a year, while a CTA board member gets $20,000, a Metra board member gets $15,000, and a Pace member gets $10,000.

Franks is one of several lawmakers who have sought greater scrutiny of mass transit boards in the wake of the 2010 scandal surrounding former Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano.

Pagano stepped in front of a Metra train near his rural Crystal Lake home just hours before he was about to be fired by the Metra board for taking more than $475,000 in unauthorized vacation payouts.

The Metra board was not only criticized for not watching Pagano closely enough, but also for spending almost double what Pagano stole to investigate the scandal. DuPage and Kane counties’ representatives on the board stepped down in 2011 at the request of their respective county board chairpeople.

Franks put significant pressure on former McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler to ask for the resignation of Metra board representative Jack Schaffer. Franks had written newly-elected board Chairwoman Tina Hill of her intentions, but Schaffer announced that he would not seek reappointment when his term expires June 30, 2014.

The bill would have a negligible effect on lowering the state’s $97 billion unfunded public pension liability. Lawmakers in the last weeks of session are struggling to hash together a reform package, and there are competing House and Senate versions.

Once House Bill 140 is sent to Quinn, it automatically becomes law in 60 days if he does not sign it or veto it.

OUTBOX

What it means

House Bill 140, which ends pension and insurance benefits for future appointees to the boards of the Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority, is headed to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, passed the House last month on a 106-0 vote with one voting present, and passed the Senate on Wednesday, 54-0. Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, carried the bill in the Senate.

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