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Sandack: Pension Reform 'Less than Perfect,' But 'Important First Step'

State Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) voted in favor of Senate Bill 1—historic pension reform for the state of Illinois.

Representative Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) voted in favor of a bill that aims to tackle the $100 billion pension problem that has bedeviled the state, its finances, and its credit rating.

The state Senate passed the measure 30-24, and the House passed it 62-53 this afternoon, the Chicago Tribune reports--all in one afternoon.

The deal will save $160 billion over 30 years, and reduce the state's payments for pensions by about $1.5 billion a year, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. 

"The State's five pension systems are a financial mess," Sandack said in a statement. "Reforming them is the single most important issue facing the State of Illinois. The ongoing pension crisis negatively affects every other necessary State activity including public education, infrastructure maintenance, public health conditions and the cost of borrowing.

"The future well-being of Illinois families is in jeopardy absent a pension solution. There's simply no fixing Illinois in the absence of meaningful pension reform, so today I voted in favor of Senate Bill 1."

The bill saves money by curtailing cost-of-living increases for pensioners, who include suburban teachers and retired state workers. It also raises retirement ages for younger workers. 

For that reason, several sources said, labor unions may mount a legal challenge to it. 

“This vote was difficult for many as we want to be fair to the hard working people in the pension systems, and it is out of that need for fairness that I voted today to protect our pension systems from collapse," Sandack said. "These reform measures are a good first step in ensuring that pensions are available when hard working and dedicated public employees retire.

“I appreciate the efforts of the conference committee and the compromise that was reached by the four legislative leaders. While I view this bill as less than perfect, I respect the process and am glad to have been able to take this important first step forward in improving the financial condition of our state. As legislators we now need to see the diligent implementation of SB1 while we put renewed energy into job creation and other key issues that affect the people of Illinois.

Sandack called the bill an "important step toward financial stability in the State of Illinois."

Sandack, who refused his pension when he was elected, supports the idea of eliminating pensions altogether for members of the General Assembly Retirement System.

Sandack has introduced legislation in the past to phase out pensions for lawmakers, and said he will continue pushing for it. 

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