Quinn wants to shift pension costs to districts

Illinois schools could take a hit in the coming year if Gov. Pat Quinn decides to shift who pays for teacher pensions.

As a cost cutting measure, Quinn wants to shift the billion-dollar cost of teacher pensions from the state to the local school districts.

The details of his plan will be revealed during his budget address Wednesday, but the proposal has many people asking just how much would a shift in school dollars hurt the districts.

"To transfer that cost to the local schools is going to be a huge burden to those districts and obviously money they do not have right now," State Sen. John Sullivan said (D-Rushville). "I don't think that's a realistic proposal."

"It's admirable to come up with an idea, but I just don't think this is a good one," State Rep. Jil Tracy said (R-Quincy).

Tracy says the pension problem has snow-balled over the years and now the state's trying to shift the burden.

"People have been living longer. There have been enhancements. There have been skipped payments by the legislature. Certainly, teachers have paid in their portion. Then you couple that with a downturn in interest. Then it's this catastrophic collision course that we see," Tracy said.

Senator Sullivan says it's important to note that Quinn's address is the first step in the process. Members of the House and Senate will then meet to vote on the issue by May.

"We're going to have to sit down. We're going to have to have negotiations and bring all the stake holders to the table and say, this is a problem," Sullivan said. "Everybody's going to need to contribute. There's certainly going to be some shared pain across the board."

Illinois schools would argue they've already felt the pain from the state's lack of funding and broken promises for years.

"If the state asks the districts to come up with a larger share of funding, for pension for example, we're asking them for more money and we still owe them money from months and months we're behind in payment," Sullivan said.