Dozens of state employees boarded buses in Chicago early Wednesday morning for a trip to Springfield with a message for lawmakers: keep your hands off our pensions.
Twenty-six buses of teachers, police officers, nurses, fire fighters and other public workers, some retired, left the city from eight different locations for a planned afternoon rally inside the capitol rotunda.
They represent a group called "We Are One Chicago," and aim to call attention to a bill passed by lawmakers in December that they maintain is unconstitutional and would unfairly burden public workers.
"That's our pension money. That's the only thing we have to live on after we retire. We don't get Social Security," said retired Chicago Teachers Union delegate Lance Cohn. "There's lots of money that can be appropriated if necessary. ... "[There are] all kinds of taxes which would not hurt the average working person but would certainly help us in improving education and saving our pensions."
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The bill passed late last year changes how cost of living adjustments are paid out, creates pauses up to five years when those COLAs are funded and raises the retirement age for those aged 45 and under.
The bill was backed by Gov. Pat Quinn and the state's four legislative leaders, who announced the pension reform deal last week with intentions of cutting $160 billion over 30 years.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican candidate for governor, voted against the bill. Other GOP gubernatorial candidates Bruce Rauner and Dan Rutherford found themselves aligned with labor and Lt. Governor Shelia Simon in opposition.
The new law is scheduled to go into effect on June 1, but already faces challenges in court from various labor unions.
Illinois has the worst-funded state pension system in the country.