Pension Town Hall Meeting Stirs Debate
Illinois' state pension debt is currently at $95 billion — citizens discussed their ideas of how to fix that at Monday's meeting.
Passions were high at Monday night's town hall meeting on current state pension proposals. Panelists at the meeting, which was held at the Wilmette Community Center, included Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview), Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston).
The meeting, which was so packed that it had to be split up in to two rooms to make room for everyone, was held to discuss the Senate Bill 35 (SB35) and House Bill 98 (HB98), which both aim to end the "long, bitter impasse over pension reform at the state Capitol by combining what has been proposed by business, labor, legislators and civic groups with some new ideas," according to a hand-out passed out before the meeting began.
Standard & Poor downgraded Illinois' credit rating to an A- at the end of January, making it the lowest out of the fifty states. The low rating is, in large part, due to the state's pension debt, which is at $95 billion.
The bill would aim to reduce the state's pension debt to $67 billion. Some attendees, however, felt that the cuts would be unfair to teachers, as public schools, universities and colleges would be accountable for paying for a larger percent of teacher's pensions out of their own budgets, and the state would pay less per the pensions.
Sonja Dziedzic and Cindy Davies, both art teachers in District 64 in Park Ridge, attended the meeting.
"It's just the same thing over and over again," Dziedzic said.
Both women agreed that they would like to see the government hold corporations more accountable when it comes to paying taxes.
"We're in a state of emergency," Biss said, when asked if the bill was worth the risk. "What can you do in that context? The truth is, we don't know. ... But it's necessary to try something, even if you're not sure if it's going to work."
Panelists agreed that those with an opinion should contact their local representatives and senators to tell them what they think should be done to fix the pension system.