NIU Workers Talk Pensions With Lawmakers

Nov 21, 2013

Credit NIU

Employee councils from NIU co-hosted a forum Wednesday, which included several area state lawmakers. The event was viewed as an opportunity for NIU faculty to offer their thoughts as the General Assembly continues to explore how to fix Illinois' troubled pension system.

Many in the crowd complained how university employees and retirees are unfairly treated by the media and general public when it comes to the origins of the problem.

Republican State Senator Dave Syverson says there's another misconception out there: that all in Springfield are to blame for the state skipping on pension payments.

"For many of us at this table, we voted against budgets that did not fund pensions properly," Syverson said.

Meanwhile, NIU employee Earl Shumaker says lawmakers need to keep the state constitution in mind when voting on an overhaul.

"If any of you vote to diminish our pensions, how dare you! You are not abiding with your oath of office," Shumaker said.

The constitutional argument has been a major sticking point in the legislative debate on how to fix pensions in Illinois.

Revenue streams

Former faculty president Charlie Larson suggests an expanded sales-tax to deal with the problem

"I think that would be a long-term solution to the problem that would be spread equally," Larson said.

But State Representative, and NIU professor, Mike Fortner says there's another way to address the problem.

"You can take advantage of those pension bonds as they retire. And you can redirect those principal payments and keep paying into the funds," Fortner said.

Lawmakers could return to Springfield early next month for a possible vote on a pension overhaul.