Forum considers impact of new pension law

Twenty-dollar bill stuffed in a nestUIC employees care about their pensions.

That was evident last Wednesday when nearly 350 of them filled a meeting room at Student Center West.

Talking about Illinois’ new pension law were Jeff Houch, legislative liaison for the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), and Brenda Russell, president of the UIC chapter of the State Universities Annuitants Association.

Houch gave what he called “the 35,000-foot view” of the new plan, passed Dec. 3 by the Illinois legislature and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn two days later.

The law was devised to address the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall, although experts, including the university’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, have said it may not be enough.

Lawsuits challenging the law’s constitutionality have been filed by a coalition of state employee unions and two retired employee associations, which experts say could delay its June 1 effective date.

If upheld, the law’s greatest impact on state retirees would be the automatic annual increase (AAI), Houch said. This amounts to 3 percent of the pension annuity, or $1,000 times the years of service, whichever is less.

Under the new law, those who retire after July 1 would be hit with AAI “skips” according to their age now:

• 50 or over — no second automatic annual increase

• 47 to under 50 — no second, fourth or sixth automatic annual increase

• 44 to under 47 — no second, fourth or sixth or eighth automatic annual increase

• under 44 — none of the above plus no 10th automatic annual increase.

Employees would not be able to convert unused sick or vacation days into service credit or use them to enhance their pension earnings, Houch said.

“It’s desperately unfair that state employees are suffering this burdensome load,” said Russell, professor emerita of physiology and biophysics.

“The state has no authority to go into a private university or private corporation and change its pension,” she added after the meeting.

Russell noted that with four lawsuits already filed against the new law, the case is likely to end up before the Illinois Supreme Court, adding, “I think it will drag on for two years at least.”

For details, including the language of the new law, visit

The session was co-sponsored by the UIC chapter of the annuities association and the Academic Professional Advisory Committee.

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