Major revisions to state pension benefits for future public employees sailed out of a House committee this morning and could be voted on by the full House this afternoon.

Major revisions to state pension benefits for future public employees sailed out of a House committee this morning and could be voted on by the full House this afternoon.

Proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, the changes raise the retirement age to 67 in order to qualify for full benefits, restrict annual cost of living increases for retirees, limit the salary that can be used to determine retirement benefits and restrict those who qualify to earn enhanced benefits under the "alternative formula" set aside for high-risk jobs.


If eventually enacted into law, the changes would go into effect Jan. 1 and affect future members of the State Employees Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System and Teachers Retirement System. Senate Bill 1946 also incorporates changes to lawmaker and judges retirement systems that were approved by the House last week.


Madigan said pension costs "have become a drag on the fiscal condition of Illinois."


A precise savings from the changes has not been determined, but a top Madigan aide said it should save "well over $100 billion" over several decades.


David Vaught, budget director for Gov. Pat Quinn, said lawmakers need to act quickly before an upcoming bond sale to pay for public works projects. Vaught said bond rating agencies will be looking at whether Illinois is taking steps to address its budget problems and could downgrade Illinois' bond rating if nothing is done.


However, unions representing teachers and state employees said the changes will be detrimental to attracting top-quality job applicants. They also renewed complaints that Illinois' pension problems are the result of underfunding of the systems, not overly generous benefits.


Contact Doug Finke at doug.finke@sj-r.com.