Dozens of teachers from Lemont and surrounding communities took part in a peaceful rally outside Sen. Christine Radogno's State Street office Wednesday evening to oppose fast-track pension legislation.
Old Quarry Middle School teacher Michelle Nevin, president of the Local 604 of the American Federation of Teachers, said she and 40 or 50 teachers, public workers and their family members gathered outside of Radogno's office between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. as part of a coordinated, statewide "Day of Action."
"We were out there to raise awareness of the state's pension issues and voice our position to Sen. Radogno," Nevin said. "We're asking lawmakers to slow down and listen to all sides before passing something that would affect all of our futures."
The "Day of Action" was coordinated by the The Illinois Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Union members were encouraged to gather at local legislative offices to voice their opposition to any "fast-track" reform legislation.
“The practice of fast-tracking bad bills to catch unions and lawmakers off guard has been used time and time again,” IFT President Dan Montgomery said in a statement. “Any pension legislation introduced in Springfield will have a significant impact upon the futures of our members and all public employees."
Nevin said a letter was delivered to Radogno's office Wednesday afternoon on behalf of the union, as well as a six-page petition.
Illinois currently has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability—$44 billion of which is from the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). The state has to come up with $5.1 billion for pensions next year, the Associated Press reports.
One of the most talked about scenarios involves the state putting its agreed upon contribution to TRS back on local school districts, which administrators and board members believe will inevitably end up on the backs of taxpayers.
On Friday, House Speaker Michael Madigan added three amendments to House Bill 3637, which would allow the state to tap into the corporate personal property replacement tax to help cover teacher pensions.
Under the proposal, local governments—including municipalities, schools, libraries and park districts—could lose as much as $1.4 billion from the CPPRT, a 2.5 percent tax on corporations that is collected by the state and earmarked for local governments.
Madigan's proposal was not called for a commitee vote Wednesday, but it could be called soon, according to Joe McCoy, legislative director for the Illinois Municipal League.
"We strongly recommend that local leaders continue to press their legislators to oppose the diversions," McCoy said. "It is always possible that the amendments could be considered at a later date."
Several Lemont officials—including Mayor Brian Reaves, District 210 Superintendent Sandra Doebert and District 113A Interim Superintendent Robert Madonia—have voiced their opposition to any legislation that would shift the state's pension liabilities to local school districts and municipalities.
"I think (Doebert and Madonia) have done a great job getting information out there about how these various proposals would impact Lemont schools," Nevin said. "The plans being discussed would be devastating not only in Lemont, but school districts across the state."
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