25th Senate candidates differ on pension fix

Friday, October 01, 2010

Both candidates for the 25th District State Senate seat agree that Illinois lawmakers must fix the underfunded state pension system.

But Republican Chris Lauzen and Democratic challenger Leslie Juby disagree on how it should be done.

Earlier this year, lawmakers signed off on a plan to reduce pension benefits for new state employees, but cost savings from that move won't be realized for decades.

Lauzen, who has held the four-year seat since 1992, says the current system is bankrupt and that he's been pushing for reform since 1995.

"The painful solution to our current pension bankruptcy requires that we declare and actuarial emergency to marshal the extraordinary authority which will be required to avoid putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound," Lauzen said.

He wants to take several steps, such as capping benefits for current employees at $100,000 and restricting benefits to age 62 rather than the current age of 55.

Juby, a school board member in Geneva, said it is unfair to change benefits for current employees because they paid into the system in good faith and state lawmakers failed to hold up their end of the deal.

"We have had leaders for the last 20 years that have not fulfilled their obligations of funding pensions," she said. "To blame the people getting the pensions is ludicrous. It's in crisis now because leaders in Springfield have been pushing it off and pushing it off."

Juby stressed there is "no magic bullet" to fixing the system right way. She favors asking groups that represent current state workers to come to the table to brainstorm solutions but does not advocate an approach in which lawmakers would impose changes on current employees.

"If you are going to do that, they need to be a part of that," Juby said.

The 25th District includes much of Kane County and portions of Kendall and LaSalle counties. The election is Nov. 2.