Teacher Bashes Pension Reform

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MOLINE - Retired teacher John Flaherty bashed the pension reform Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan supported last week.

The legislation would make teachers choose between health insurance or an accumulating cost of living adjustment or COLA as they call it. If teachers wanted the health insurance in their pension, their COLA payment for the year would not be as much.

"Do you want to get shot with a 38 or a 45?" Flaherty said of the legislation. "Either way, you're going to suffer. Which way do you want to get shot?"

Illinois legislators know that something has to be done though. The Illinois pension fund is $83 billion in debt. Some think the legislation could save the state almost all of that money.

"It's quite a perk," Illinois State Rep. Pat Verschoore said of the current teacher pension system. "But if the government doesn't start paying it's fair share of the pension, there was going to be a train wreck. We all happened to be in the station when the train hit the walls."

Verschoore is alluding to the COLA for teachers which accumulates every year when they're retired in Illinois. Because that amount keeps increasing, some have wanted the teachers to give in to the legislation.

"I spent 39 years in education with a promise of a three percent COLA," Flaherty said. "To wait until we retire to take that away is grossly unfair."

So what will Illinois do now? It can't do anything until it goes into a special session because the House never voted on it before the session adjourned. The bill is Senate Bill 1673. Verschoore said he would vote 'no' on the bill because he does want to protect the teachers from the change.