The Importance of Pension Reform in Illinois
Local Industry Experts and Business Leaders Unite to Address the Issue
Laurence Msall of The Civic Federation delivers his pension reform presentation to the audience
Chicago – Members of the Illinois business community joined the Chamber on June 20 at the downtown office of Chamber Board member True Partners Consulting for an expert panel on the public pension crisis in Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago.
James Kane, co-founder and managing director of True Partners Consulting and Chair of the Chamber’s Tax Committee, moderated a panel consisting of Laurence Msall, President, The Civic Federation; Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner; and Lois Scott, Chief Financial Officer, City of Chicago.
Msall led off the meeting with a presentation outlining the considerable problems with the current pension system in place in the State of Illinois. Despite the growing crisis and dramatic rise in unfunded liability over the last decade, he said there is still reason for optimism because all major government and civic leaders agree that we are in dire need of pension reform.
Bridget Gainer identified some of the issues that have led to Cook County’s current crisis, such as the early retirement program and investment losses, before laying out key issues to address going forward. As Cook County Commissioner, she has spoken with 80 percent of the unions in the county and initiated analysis on contributions from employers and employees, the retirement age, the size of benefits packages and the cost of living adjustment (COLA).
“We need to come together now to solve the pension crisis so we have stability for the workforce, and so we can still attract talented workers,” Gainer said.
Solving the pension issue has been a high priority for the City of Chicago since Mayor Emanuel took office 13 months ago. Lois Scott described the roadmap the Mayor and his administration presented to legislators in Springfield, which in includes a focus on COLA, employee contributions, and the retirement age.
“We need to find something that is constitutionally viable as well as fair to employees and sustainable,” Scott said.
The Chicagoland Chamber has urged the Governor and General Assembly to commit to reaching an agreement on pension reform that will help set the course for economic security in 2013 and beyond. The Chamber will continue working with the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois to achieve this goal.
“The Chicagoland Chamber plays a really important role and I really appreciate the leadership they’ve shown on the pension issue,” Gainer said. “One of the most important things they can do is create the forum for conversation. They get the conversation going, and that conversation then springs to the second most important thing, which is getting people to reach out to the members of the legislature who are ultimately going to vote on this.”
The Chamber encourages the business community to continue to participate and learn more about the impact the public pension issue has on the state and regional economy and to engage in the process for change.