Legislative Update from Rep. Joe Sosnowski, State Representative, 69th District
In recent years, Illinois residents and businesses have seen historic increases in taxes. Illinois continues to be a structurally unfriendly environment for both families and businesses alike, and further tax burdens will simply drive jobs and people from our state. These most recent rate increases bringing in over $6 billion a year in additional revenue, but despite this increase, our unfunded liabilities continue to grow and the number is quickly approaching $100 billion. While that number is too large to put into context, its effects are dramatic. Increasingly, more taxpayer dollars are going to fund pension liabilities rather than essential infrastructure, education, research, or economic development.
I believe State employees have worked hard and faithfully, and deserve a retirement plan that is dependable yet affordable for taxpayers. This is why I joined a group of bipartisan lawmakers in unveiling a historic and comprehensive pension reform package that would save the hardworking taxpayers $30 billion and preserve the pension system for teachers and state employees.
House Bill 3411 is a combination of new ideas coupled with what has previously been suggested by business and labor leaders, legislators and civic groups. It ensures the benefits for retirees by guaranteeing employer contributions to be 100 percent funded within 30 years. It also makes changes affecting employee contributions, cost-of-living adjustments, and a new hybrid retirement plan for recently hired teachers and state employees.
Unfortunately, leadership in the House continued to play games this week by bringing forth a series of votes with no intention of solving our pension crisis. The debate was not fair to state employees and teachers who deserve an honest discussion on proposals that are reasonable. With the serious issues before us, we need to focus on legitimate pension reform that will ensure the state can continue to offer retirement benefits to its employees, now and in the future.
For years, I have been working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to unite behind a plan that will solve our state’s greatest financial challenge. I am proud of the pension reform bill that I am co-sponsoring, House Bill 3411. It has received support from members of all four legislative caucuses and I am optimistic that it has what it takes to move the state forward.