House accepts education-related bill regarding pension costs, rejects tuition waiver legislation
Republican representatives accepted one education-related bill regarding pension costs and rejected one about tuition waivers during a lengthy House floor debate.
HB4684, backed by Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Chicago), would give the authority to a comptroller to intercept delinquent payments to participating employers in the state university retirement system when granting a salary increase that exceeds the 6 percent cap. It was presented in the chamber March 7.
Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) wanted to know the genesis of the bill and which entities exactly violated it since from his review, it is not just community colleges but also Chicago State University, which is somewhat funded by property taxes.
“So they have taken bad actions; however, we have to figure out a way to pay for their bad actions,” Breen asked.
“In a matter of speaking, that is exactly right,” Martwick answered.
Though Reps. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) had just one question before they all expressed their support, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) did not.
Ives, on the other hand, had much to say about the bill, noting in committee the discussion over HB4684 was really about a mere $13,000 Chicago State University owes the state over “highly overcompensated individuals,” rather than the problematic pension crisis lawmakers should really be focusing on.
“What we are not talking about here is the $130 billion pension debt that we are in, that’s what we are not talking about, and that half of our support to higher education goes only to pensions,” Ives said.
There has not been a substantial bill on Illinois pension in committee yet this year, she said, and yet they are quibbling over $13,000 when the state is sitting on “billions and billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities that have sate here and festered for decades under the whole system.”
Getting out her phone, Ives read off a financial report to put the matter in context, noting taxpayers have subsidized $6.9 billion in pension debt over the last decade, and in 2014, $1.5 billion came out of taxes and student tuition payments.
“In 2014 it was five times what employees themselves contributed to their own retirement funds,” Ives said. “Employees contributed on average $4,077, taxpayers contributed over $21,000 per employee.”
Ives said she would support the bill that passed 106-0.
Another school-related piece of legislation did not see the same support. Failing 37-60, HB4235, sponsored by Rep. Bill Prichard, which mandates that a school district cannot request a mandate waiver not be modified for tuition if it is in a teacher shortage area, was not well received.
Before it failed, the backer said the underlying reason for the legislation is that every year Illinois school districts are getting more and more waivers asking to forgive tuition for out of district students.
“I don’t think there is one single school district in our state that wants open enrollment and yet we are allowing that on a more frequent basis,” Prichard said.