On July 21, 2015, Illinois FOP Executive DirectorDavid Wickster was accompanied by Illinois FOP State Lodge President Chris Southwood and FOP Trooper's Lodge 41 Vice President Joe Moon as they testified in front of the Illinois House of Representatives Personnel and Pension Committee at the State Capitol in Springfield. The Committee held hearings for two hours today in room 122B at the state capitol.
Attacks on our pensions and collective bargaining were the subject of debate. The questions fell along party lines with republican representatives questioning the sustainability of public pensions while democratic representatives seemed to understand the bargain that was made with public safety servants.
The FOP Labor Council made it clear that we are standing together as never before to fight for our members rights, active and retired. And we thanked those legislators who have stood beside us in the fight!
The FOP Labor Council asked its lobbyists to review the governor's 500 page pensioin reform proposal. Here is what Andrew Bodewes of Leinenweber, Baroni and Daffada had to offer:
The Governor’s draft legislation is especially damaging towards public safety, even as compared to its effect on other public employees. It should be noted that the legislation affects law enforcement regardless of their pension system, including Cook County, City of Chicago, State of Illinois or other municipalities. In brief, these are some of the issues specific to law enforcement:
Municipal bankruptcy is allowed, and the proposed method is especially egregious as it exempts basic tax payer and employee protections like the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Specifically, it allows municipalities to declare bankruptcy very easily and without any sunshine. This would extend to pension funds.
The legislation consolidates investments for downstate police and fire pensions into IMRF. This consolidation happens during a time in which employees are making critical decisions, as outlined below, and will inevitably lead to complications in pension decisions because of a lack of communication and focus by the eviscerated pension fund.
The bill virtually eliminates catastrophic injury benefits by limiting health care benefits for individuals catastrophically injured in the line of duty to those individuals who cannot receive any gainful employment. That employment need not offer healthcare or be in any way comparable to their employment in public safety. This decision is ultimately up to the municipality who can doctor shop, and whose decision is final and virtually without appeal. The end product of this law would be to eliminate this important benefit.
Downstate public safety receive a Tier III benefit, and they are the only group to receive such special treatment. This benefit is a substantially reduced defined benefit that consists of the worst multiplier in the state (1.5% of final average salary for each year worked) and is even worse than individuals who receive social security (1.6% currently for state employees). Other reductions include a major reduction in the way that cost of living adjustments, final average salary and other benefits are calculated. The retirement age for this class of persons is as high as age 65, which is well beyond mandatory retirement age for many departments. Widows and orphans receive 60% of the benefit, which is the lowest of state systems.
Downstate police pension funds receive substantially less employer money under this proposal. The funds will reach 90% funding by 2055. This is tied to bankruptcy, because this change will almost assuredly result in fund insolvency.
Current active law enforcement across the state will have a choice between reducing their COLA to ½ of CPI or having their salary frozen at current levels. This is consistent with non public safety changes, but the effects are likely more severe because of the current practice of establishing pay as salary associated with rank. State employees have additional choices including opting for more vacation, extra salary and calculation of overtime and seniority.