Pension Reform

Latest News

Eligible to retire before July? Better check your SURS benefits!

4/1/14

NIU employees eligible for retirement this fiscal year should review their retirement benefits to analyze the impact of recent pension reform changes.

Read more at NIU Today >>


SURS updates members on pension reform

3/20/14

Major plan amendments (effective either June 1 or July 1) that will affect currently employed Tier I personnel include: Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), Effective Rate of Interest (ERI), Money Purchase Actuarial Changes, and the Effect on the Pension Calculation Maximum Pensionable Earnings Cap Retirement Age Eligibility. A SURS retirement counselor will speak in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, April 24, on pension reform.

Read More at NIU Today >>


HRS offering help with retirement forms

3/20/14

Individuals planning to retire, who want assistance completing their SURS application forms, can attend one of nearly two-dozen retirement application processing sessions offered by Human Resource Services between April 26 and May 30.

Read More at NIU Today >>


SURS retirement specialist to visit in April

2/24/14

A retirement specialist from the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) will be on campus Wednesday, April 23, and Thursday, April 24, to meet with individual employees to discuss retirement estimates. Sessions will take place in rooms 303 and 304 of the Holmes Student Center.

Read More in NIU Today >>


Pension legislation passes both houses

12/3/13

The Illinois General Assembly approved a pension reform plan today in hopes of eliminating the state’s $100 billion pension shortfall.

Read more at NIU Today >


General Assembly to consider pension proposal Dec. 3

12/1/13

Illinois legislative leaders reached a deal to help solve the state’s $100 billion pension problem and offered details Friday afternoon.

Read More >


State leaders announce pension reform deal

11/27/13

Illinois legislative leaders announced they’ve reached a deal to help solve the state’s $100 billion pension problem but offered no details following a Wednesday meeting. The Illinois House and Senate will consider the measure in a special session on Dec. 3.

Read more:

Illinois legislators reach pension deal
(Associated Press)

Four legislative leaders strike deal on pension reform
(Chicago Sun-Times)


NIU VP talks pensions with legislator, media

8/30/13

Illinois’ “worst in the nation” public pension system has been the key policy issue in the state for several years. Now, the cries for reform are louder than ever as the deficit continues to snowball.

WNIJ’s Susan Stephens and Rockford Register Star Political Editor Chuck Sweeny recently sat down with State Senator Dave Syverson and Northern Illinois University Vice President Steve Cunningham–who is among the architects of the six step pension reform proposal that served as a starting point for current negotiations–to discuss key issues and hurdles for pension reform.

Listen to the full discussion on Northern Public Radio.


Pension committee hears higher ed testimony

7/8/13

Higher education leaders from across the state, including Northern Illinois University acting executive vice president of business and finance Steven Cunningham, testified before a 10-member bipartisan legislative conference committee during a 9 a.m. July 3 meeting at the Michael Bilandic Building in Chicago. The group advocated for the Institute for Government and Public Affairs’ (IGPA) six step plan for reforming the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) outlined in its March 2013 “Six Simple Steps: Reforming the Illinois State Universities Retirement System” report. 

Read more in NIU Today >


NIU administrators testify to merits of Six Step Plan

6/19/13

Northern Illinois University president John G. Peters and acting executive vice president and chief of operations Steven Cunningham lined up with other higher education leaders in the state to testify before the Senate Executive Committee as to the viability of legislation aimed to stabilize the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). Their combined testimony was well-received.

Read more in NIU Today >


University presidents offer SURS pension stabilization compromise

6/16/13

Northern Illinois University President John Peters and senior administrators have been actively involved in building consensus on a pension stabilization solution for the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) that enjoys the unanimous support of presidents and chancellors of all Illinois public universities.

The plan – a combination of Senate Bill 1687 and Senate Bill 2591 – is expected to be discussed Tuesday by a Senate panel in Springfield.

Read more in NIU Today >


State lawmakers adjourn Friday without acting to resolve pension funding crisis across Illinois

June 1, 2013

The Illinois General Assembly adjourned Friday evening without taking action to resolve Illinois’ pension funding crisis. Illinois public university presidents and chancellors worked diligently this spring to craft a viable solution to the SURS funding problems.

Read more in NIU Today > 


Springfield legislative session enters final week with several major issues in need of resolution

May 24, 2013

Just one more week remains in the current legislative session before the Illinois General Assembly adjourns Friday, May 31. At this point, major issues remain unresolved, which is not uncommon given the natural rhythm of the legislative process in Springfield.

Read more in NIU Today >


Universities agree to pick up pension costs

May 17, 2013

Presidents and chancellors at public universities and colleges across the state reached an agreement in principal with House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House leaders Thursday for public universities to assume the employer share of employee pension costs beginning in FY2015.

Read more in NIU Today >


Peters updates campus on pension reform

May 10, 2013

I am writing to you today to update you with some very important information relative to the very fluid pension debate in the General Assembly in Springfield.

Thursday afternoon, the Illinois Senate approved an amended version of Senate Bill 2404, a union-backed proposal sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton that offers Tier I employees a choice of whether to accept a choice in cost-of-living adjustments, pensionable future raises and/or state-sponsored health insurance.

Read more in NIU Today >


Illinois House passes historic pension reform bill

May 2, 2013

The Illinois House has approved a comprehensive pension-reform measure sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan by a vote of 62-51 Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 1 is designed to close a $97 billion deficit that hangs over the state's pension plans. Underfunding for decades has left the pension systems short of what they need.

The bill would require employees to contribute an additional two percent of their earnings to their pensions, delay retirement, and accept smaller cost of living increases. The state would also promise to make its required contribution each year.


Madigan pension reform package clears first hurdle

Full House vote expected today

May 2, 2013

The House Personnel and Pensions Committee passed a pension reform plan put forth by Speaker Michael Madigan by a 9-1 vote, clearing the way for the pension reform bill to be called before the full House Thursday.

Madigan's plan calls for employees to pay 2 percent more of salary toward their retirement plans. Workers would only be able to collect pension on a salary up to $110,000, which would increase by 0.5 percent of the inflation rate per year.

"It will bring solvency and stability to the four systems," Madigan said of his amendment, which would affect the State Universities Retirement System and three others but leave out the Judges’ Retirement System of Illinois to avoid a conflict should the reforms face legal challenges.

"I commend the nine members of the House Committee who today voted to address the biggest challenge facing our state,” said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn through a statement released Wednesday. "Illinois' economy will not fully recover until the General Assembly passes this comprehensive pension reform and sends the bill to my desk.”


Speaker Madigan files pension reform package

May 1, 2013

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan filed an amendment to a comprehensive pension-reform package passed by the Senate last month that caps the salary on which a pension can be based and limits annual cost-of-living increases.

The House Personnel & Pensions Committee is scheduled to consider the legislation at an 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 meeting.

The 277-page proposed amendment tweaks ideas proposed by Rep. Elaine Nekritz and House Republican Leader Tom Cross and would cap the total annual salary on which a pension could be based at $109,971, which is less than the $113,000 Social Security guideline originally proposed.

More in NIU Today >>

Madigan Fact Sheet (PDF)

SURS Analysis (PDF)


Public university leaders endorse pension plan

April 9, 2013

The presidents and chancellors of the 14 public universities in Illinois have unanimously endorsed a six-point proposal for addressing the state’s pension funding crisis as it relates to the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), and in a letter to the governor and legislative leaders they called it “a thoughtful and responsible approach.”

More in NIU Today >


IGPA proposes six-step SURS pension reform plan

March 14, 2013

As Illinois’ public-employee pension liability soars toward $100 billion, a group of scholars that includes Northern Illinois University’s acting executive vice president Steven Cunningham, has developed a six-step proposal to stabilize pensions for employees of the state’s public colleges and universities.

More in NIU Today >
View IGPA Proposal >


Quinn targets pension reform in budget address

March 6, 2013

Education will sustain a painful hit in a new State of Illinois spending plan unveiled today during Gov. Pat Quinn’s annual budget address. 

Calling it the “most difficult budget ever,” the governor said the state must solve its public-employee pension crisis, which will drain nearly $7 billion of the Illinois general revenue in the coming year.

More in NIU Today >
FY2014 Budget >


Cross, Nekritz file new pension reform proposal

February 27, 2013

Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross (R‐Oswego) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) introduced pension reform legislation Feb. 27, which would save taxpayers $30 billion and the pension system for government workers, according to a press release.

Read more at NIU Today >
HB 3411 Fact Sheet >


Pension Update: House committee endorses new pension plan

January 8, 2013

A committee of lawmakers in Springfield endorsed a proposal Monday that would enact sweeping changes to the state’s employee pension system. Under the plan endorsed by the House Personnel and Pensions Committee (on a 6-3 vote) the changes would include:

  • A six-year suspension of the annual 3 percent cost of living increase currently given to retirees. 
  • After the six-year period, increases would only apply to the first $25,000 of a retiree’s pension, and those increases would not kick in until a retiree turns 67 years of age. 
  • Employees also would have to chip in an additional 2 percent of their salary toward their retirements. The increase would be phased in over two years. 
  • The state would be legally compelled to pay its full share of its annual pension payment every year

Read more at NIU Today > 



Pension experts propose new SURS reforms

December 11, 2012

A group of Illinois university professors and administrators has released a plan to reform the retirement system for university employees.

An Institute of Government and Public Affairs proposal released Monday recommends letting workers trade a portion of their guaranteed benefits for a lump-sum payment which would go into a self-managed retirement account.

“Consideration of a fair set of alternatives for participants along with strategies to reduce pension system liabilities are important components of the reform measures we suggest,” says NIU vice president Steve Cunningham, who is among the report’s authors.

Read More at NIU Today > 


Governor Quinn launches pension reform campaign

November 19, 2012

Flanked by children yelling “Thanks in Advance” through red megaphones, Illinois governor Pat Quinn unveiled a campaign to call attention to the state’s pension funding problems on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Among the elements is the launch of a new website, www.thisismyillinois.com.

Read More at NIU Today>>


Statehouse Update: Fall Veto Session unlikely to tackle pension reform, eyes turn to January

October 16, 2012

The Illinois General Assembly reconvenes from Tuesday, Nov. 27, to Thursday, Nov. 29 and from Tuesday, Dec. 4, to Thursday, Dec. 6, for its Fall Veto Session. We also anticipate that the General Assembly will reconvene in early January 2013 for a “Lame Duck” session before the 98th Illinois General Assembly is inaugurated Jan. 9, 2013.

Although the issue of “pension reform” of the five state-funded pension systems, including the State Universities Retirement System (SURS), has been discussed by the media, elected officials, the governor, business groups, unions and other interested parties, there is unlikely to be any action taken by the General Assembly until the lame duck session in January.

At that time, it will require only a simple majority vote to approve legislation, instead of the three-fifths vote needed to pass during the veto session.  Full Story >>


States are $1.38 Trillion Short in Funding Retirement Systems

June 18, 2012

The gap between the promises states have made for public employees’ retirement benefits and the money they have set aside to pay these bills was at least $1.38 trillion in fiscal year 2010, according to Pew's latest comprehensive analysis on pension and retiree health care funding. 

Full Report >

Illinois Fact Sheet >


Pension reform plans stall in General Assembly
June special session likely

June 1, 2012 

Pension reform bills in both the State Senate and House of Representatives failed to come up for a vote before the midnight, May 31, deadline that marks the end of the spring legislative session. While a special session in June is likely to be called to deal with the pension funding issue, it will be more difficult to craft and pass meaningful legislation into law because passage in a special session requires a three-fifths super majority rather than a simple majority during regular session.

For the past year, leaders of Illinois’s public universities and colleges, including those at NIU, have been actively involved both on campus and in Springfield to put forth an equitable solution to pension funding. Northern Illinois University will continue to actively pursue the pension reform goals it has laid out over the past year in order to provide competitive public sector retirement benefits to attract and retain top faculty, staff and administrators. Full Story >


Revised pension plan heads to full House

May 31, 2012

A stripped-down pension reform package absent a controversial cost-shifting provision that would have transferred responsibility for payments of normal costs of pension benefits from the state to employers (universities, school districts and community colleges) passed the House Personnel and Pension Committee for consideration by the full House Thursday. Full Story >


Revised pension plan heads to full House

May 31, 2012

A stripped-down pension reform package absent a controversial cost-shifting provision that would have transferred responsibility for payments of normal costs of pension benefits from the state to employers (universities, school districts and community colleges) passed the House Personnel and Pension Committee for consideration by the full House Thursday. Full Story >


Senate Executive Committee hears separate but similar pension reform bills

May 30, 2012

On Wednesday, the Executive Committee of the Illinois State Senate heard testimony regarding House Bill 3076, which would apply technical elements similar to those presented in Senate Bill 1673, heard yesterday in the House, to the State Universities Retirement System. Additionally, the committee heard summaries of amendments to House Bills 1447 and 3865 before taking testimony in favor of and in opposition to the bills. The committee recessed without taking a formal vote on the amendments.
Full Story >


Update: Pension plan passes out of committee for consideration by House

May 29, 2012

A pension reform plan with significant implications for existing and retired state and university employees passed the House Personnel & Pensions Committee late this morning on a 6-3 vote. It now moves to the full House for consideration, possibly later today.

Briefly, SB 1673, House Amendment #3, shifts normal costs to universities, community colleges and school districts, reduces cost-of-living-adjustments in retirement and offers employees a choice between accepting the lesser, Tier II cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) with access to the state’s retiree health care plan or maintaining the current COLA with a freeze on pay raises counting toward future pension benefits and no access to the state’s retiree health care plan.

At this point, the legislation does not include an increase in the retirement age to 67 or an increase in employee contributions to the retirement systems. A complete analysis of SB 1673, prepared by the State Universities Annuitants Association, was completed early this morning.

As this critical phase of pension discussions unfolds, updates will be posted to NIU’s State Pension & Budget Update website in addition to NIU Today.


NIU, Higher Ed representatives discuss pension plan

May 25, 2012

A pension reform plan outlined by House Speaker Michael Madigan Thursday would shift costs to universities, reduce cost-of-living-adjustments in retirement, and offer a choice between accepting the lesser, Tier II cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) with access to the state’s retiree health care plan or maintaining the current COLA with a freeze on pay raises counting towards future pension benefits and no access to the state’s retiree health care plan.

Higher education representatives—including those at Northern Illinois University—met today with Governor Pat Quinn’s pension working group to explain the effect potential pension changes will have on the quality of higher education in the state of Illinois and on retention and attraction of qualified educators and administrators to state universities.

 Full story >


Speaker Michael Madigan on Medicaid and Pension Reform

May 25, 2012

Courtesy of the Illinois Channel

 


Retiree Healthcare Reform Bill Passes

May 11, 2012

University and other state employees could be on the verge of losing the free health insurance received in retirement, as legislation to end the benefit was approved by the Senate and goes to Governor Pat Quinn. Under the new plan contained within Senate Bill 1313, retired state employees, legislators, judges and university employees would pay a premium based on their years working for the state and ability to pay. Full story >


Cunningham discusses pensions on WNIJ

April 30, 2012

Steven Cunningham

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn wants state institutions, such as Northern Illinois University, to contribute to their workers' pensions. Currently, the state pays the employer share of contributions. Quinn's plan would slowly shift the responsibility for paying the "normal cost of pensions" to universities, community colleges and school districts.

WNIJ's Dan Klefstad spoke with Steven Cunningham, NIU's vice president for administration and human resources, regarding the impact the governor's proposal would have on NIU. Read more >

Cunningham on the proposed fix by the Institute on Government & Public Policy - Listen >

Full interview - Listen >


Illinois Policy Survey analyzes attitudes towards pension reform

April 26, 2012

Each year, the just-released Illinois Policy Survey asks respondents what they consider to be the most important problem facing the state. In 2011, 34 percent of respondents indicated some aspect of state budget and government debt, making it the most widely-cited problem for the fourth straight year.

Produced by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies for the last 28 years, the Illinois Policy Survey provides citizens and state leaders with systematic and representative information on public attitudes, values and expectations with respect to the performance of elected officials and policy issues facing Illinois.

One major issue relating to Illinois’ financial crisis concerns the state pension systems, as funding for these programs are making increasingly heavy demands on the state’s revenues. This attachedexcerpt from the Illinois Policy Survey breaks down attitudes towards pension reform in the state of Illinois.


Pension Message from President Peters

April 23, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Friday afternoon Governor Quinn outlined the framework of his plan to resolve the state’s pension funding crisis. Briefly, the Governor’s proposal provides for 100% funding for pension systems by 2042 by making the following changes to the current plan:

  • 3% increase in employee contributions
  • Reduce COLA (cost of living adjustment) to lesser of 3% or ½ of CPI, simple interest
  • Delay COLA to earlier of age 67 or 5 years after retirement
  • Increase retirement age to 67 (to be phased in over several years)
  • Establish 30-year closed ARC (actuarially required contribution) funding schedule
  • Public sector pensions limited to public sector employment

In return for the changes above, employee pay increases would continue to be counted in the calculation of their pension, and employees would receive a subsidy for their health care in retirement.

The Governor’s plan also calls for phasing-in the responsibility for paying normal costs of pensions to each employer, including school districts, community colleges and public universities.

So what does the Governor’s plan mean for our faculty and staff at NIU who have never missed a contribution to their pension plan?

While there is no doubt the state’s pension plans are in terrible financial shape, the root cause of this problem is NOT the fault of the state employees. Nor is it the fault of the taxpayers of the state of Illinois. The root cause lies in decades of state underfunding of required pension obligations while redirecting resources to other priorities. To resolve this funding crisis, shared sacrifice is necessary.

Read Message >


Information on Gov. Quinn's Proposed Plan to Stabilize the Pension System

April 20, 2012


SURS Town Hall Recap

March 7, 2012

Northern Illinois University President John G. Peters sent a video message to NIU faculty and staff Wednesday, March 7, regarding the pension reform town hall meeting held earlier in the day.

Colleagues,

As part of our ongoing efforts to provide you with timely information regarding proposed changes to our pension plans, NIU hosted a town hall-style meeting this afternoon. Hundreds of current employees and annuitants attended.

At that meeting, Steve Cunningham, Vice President for Administration and Human Resources, and I presented an overview of the current situation including a brief history, implications for SURS and proposed legislation. We also discussed insights presented in the recent University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs report on this topic and had the opportunity to hear and answer questions posed by the audience. 

Pension reform is a priority in state government this spring, so I encourage you to take the time to view the Town Hall meeting online, review the associated documents and stay engaged by following the issue on our state budget and pension website and offering your thoughtful comments and suggestions so we may best represent your interests. 

Sincerely,

John G. Peters
President

View the video message >

View video and PowerPoint slides from today's meeting on pension issues >


President Peters, Steve Cunningham to host March 7 ‘town hall’ meeting on pension issues

February 29, 2012

NIU President John G. Peters emailed this message to the campus Wednesday, Feb. 29.

Colleagues,

 As part of our ongoing efforts to provide you with timely information regarding proposed changes to our pension plans, the university will host a town hall-style meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center.

At that meeting, Steve Cunningham, Vice President for Administration and Human Resources, and I will present an overview of the current situation including a brief history, implications for SURS and proposed legislation. We will also discuss insights presented in the recent University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs report on this topic, and will include a question-and-answer session. Specific questions may be emailed in advance to pensionquestions@niu.edu.

The entire program is expected to last approximately 90 minutes.

For those unable to attend the event, NIU Media Services will live-stream the event at NIU Today (www.niutoday.info). That stream will be archived on the State Pension & Budget Update website (www.niu.edu/statebudget/) and available for viewing at your convenience.

Pension reform is a priority in state government this spring, so please take advantage of this opportunity to hear the latest news on this important topic.

For more information about this event, and about pension issues in general, visit the NIU State Pension & Budget Update website.

Sincerely,

John G. Peters
President


State Pension Update

February 10, 2012

Northern Illinois University President John G. Peters sent a video message to NIU faculty and staff Friday, February 10, regarding a recent analysis of Illinois’ public pension problem.

Colleagues,

The prestigious Illinois Institute of Government & Public Affairs has released an insightful analysis of Illinois’ public pension problem and proposes a set of reforms for the SURS that meet the standards of the Illinois constitution and provides fiscal sustainability for the system going forward. It is built on the concept of shared responsibility among the state, its universities and employees.

Please take the time to view the video and to click the link below for more information about this insightful report and the proposal contained within. Thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration.

Sincerely,

John G. Peters
President

Watch the Video Message > 

Read the IGPA reform proposal for the SURS >


Archived 2011 Pension Reform Updates >

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn wants state institutions, such as Northern Illinois University, to contribute to their workers' pensions. Currently, the state pays the employer share of contributions. Quinn's plan would slowly shift the responsibility for paying the "normal cost of pensions" to universities, community colleges and school districts.

 

WNIJ's Dan Klefstad spoke with Steven Cunningham, NIU's vice president for administration and human resources, regarding the impact the governor's proposal would have on NIU.



Pensions in the News


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