Illinois Pension Reform: An Interview With State Senator Daniel Biss

Teacher Pensions:

Chad Aldeman: First, can you say why you are interested in pension reform, and what made this bill important?
Daniel Biss: I’m interested in pension reform because the first two years of my service in the Illinois General Assembly were years that followed a very significant tax increase and yet saw extremely deep cuts in discretionary spending to areas of public service that I cared deeply about, the reasons that I entered public service in the first place.
The size of our pension payments was so large that if we tried to address our budget problems without looking at pensions, we would be signing ourselves up for deep and never-ending impacts on the rest of state government. I just couldn’t get to a place where that seemed acceptable. I sought out changes to the pension system that ultimately strengthened and preserved it for those who rely on it the most.
This bill makes significant changes to the pension system in a way that seeks to do three very important things. The first is to achieve significant budgetary savings. After this legislation, our state payments over the next 30 years will be $160 billion dollars lower. Number two, this bill achieves those savings in a way that is consistent with my policy priorities, namely sheltering those with the smallest pensions and those who are most reliant on their pensions, as well as those who have served the longest. Number three, for the first time in history, Illinois will be making its actuarially required payments in keeping with national actuarial standards. Not only do we get on an actuarial payment schedule, we put in place protections to ensure that we stay on that schedule going forward.