Another Democratic governor is distancing himself from the blue model: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced a plan to shore up the state’s pension system by reducing benefits and increasing contributions and working time by state employees. Quinn’s plan would raise the age at which pensions can be collected by two years to 67, while reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments to 3 percent or less. His proposals could save the state up to $85 billion over the next 30 years.The savings sound good, but the plan’s implementation is perhaps the most interesting part. Rather than simply mandate the changes, Quinn is offering state employees a choice:
Quinn would give current employees the option to reject the changes and remain enrolled in the current retirement plans. But there’s a big stick if an employee doesn’t take the carrot: Current employees who refuse to accept the new pension plan would not be allowed to figure any future pay raises into their overall pension calculation, and they would lose state-paid health care upon retirement.
This may give ideas to other politicians looking to reform pensions in their states. Zealous reformers like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio hit serious roadblocks by antagonizing public workers. Quinn’s approach may be more palatable to state workers and their allies. Unions are still likely to oppose the measure, but it probably won’t kick up a firestorm as in Wisconsin. Aside from the union outcry, some Republicans have worried about the Quinn plan’s effect on property taxes, but so far the measure has received a good deal of bipartisan support and stands a chance of passing the state legislature. Along with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s reforms to blue model institutions in Chicago, the Quinn plan would mark a significant shift for the state’s political establishment.Alas, our most famous Illinoisan, President Obama, seems reluctant to follow their lead.