Teachers union, retirees protest proposed pension plan

By Marshanna Hester

December 3, 2013 Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 10:24 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Teachers and retirees held their signs up high in Peoria on Monday, in protest of a pension bill they said is bad business.

"It's punishment basically," said Lisa Uphoff of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

But they need lawmakers to hear them. So they rallied outside the offices of Senator Darin LaHood and Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth.

"We have made our payments in full, on time, every time, no exceptions," said teacher Rick Hebron. "And now, we're paying for the state's fiscal irresponsibility."

Hebron said the entire pension battle has been aggravating and frustrating.

He has even considered giving up his 26-year teaching career, but remains committed to his students.

It is a concept state workers said elected leaders could learn from, since this latest pension deal was made in secret.

"Lack of transparency we find very troubling," Uphoff said. "We also think this bill is unconstitutional because it takes benefits defined for people who are already retired and diminishes them."

State Representative Mike Unes has the same concerns.

He will have less than 24 hours to read the 327 pages of the bill before an expected vote in Springfield on Tuesday.

Unes is not saying how he will vote, but gave some insight.

"If there is going to be a comprehensive approach, which I think there needs to be, it should include all five pension systems from the state," he said. "And not all five pension systems are included in this bill."

The proposed bill is said to save the state $160 billion over 30 years.

However, Unes says only 10-percent of that is earmarked to pay down the massive debt.

Regardless, state workers aren't going down without a fight. They will testify Tuesday before the pension committee, which has to approve the deal before it goes to the House and Senate.

If the bill passes, a lawsuit is a possibility.

A spokesperson with Senator Dave Koehler's office said he is an assumed "no" vote, but won't know for sure until Tuesday.

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