From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

University Presidents Rally Behind Exclusive Pension Plan

Southern Illinois University President Glen Poshard and University of Illinois President Robert Easter

Southern Illinois University President Glen Poshard (l) and University of Illinois President Robert Easter (m) testify during a legislative hearing on May 16, 2013 in Springfield. (Amanda Vinicky/IPR)

The presidents of Illinois’ public universities are rallying behind a plan intended to bolster the pension system for their employees.

The proposal was the subject of a state Senate hearing Tuesday in Springfield, but its future is far from certain.

One by one, university presidents told Senators why they believe something must be done about pensions.

University of Illinois president Robert Easter said his schools are at a competitive disadvantage for recruiting top faculty.

“It’s important to us that we get beyond the current conversation about pension reform to a reliable system that we can articulate to those that work for us today and those that we would like to join us,” Easter said.

The plan would require workers to contribute an extra two percent toward their retirement, and pensions would no longer increase by a compounded three percent a year — instead increases would be half the rate of inflation, which would have been well below three percent in recent years.

Senate President John Cullerton said there are aspects of the plan he likes, and that it should be considered as pension negotiations continue.

But House Speaker Mike Madigan suggests keeping compounded increases in pensions — even at a reduced rate — might not save enough money.