Two Views on Pension Reform: IL 28th Senate Dist. Candidates

Sen. Dan Kotowski and Jim O’Donnell are vying to represent the newly drawn district. Compare how they stack up on the issues.

Patch asked candidates in the 2012 General Election to fill out question and answer forms about their backgrounds, public policy views and plans for if they are elected.

Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Democrat of Park Ridge, currently representing the 33rd Illinois Senate District, faces Jim O’Donnell, a Republican, also from Park Ridge, to represent Illinois’ newly drawn 28th Senate District.

The 28th State Senate District includes portions of Roselle, Schaumburg, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines and Rosemont. The Illinois State Board of Elections has a district locator.

The state’s pension liability was one of the issues we asked the candidates about. Check out their answers below, and click on the links to read the rest of the Q&A’s.


Patch: Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is $83 billion. The state’s inability to address the issue recently led Moody’s to downgrade Illinois’ credit rating. What should be done to address the state’s rising pension obligations?

O’Donnell: We must immediately reform our state pension system.

The various pension systems have promised over $600 billion in future benefits and has only $70 billion in assets to pay for them.

I believe we need to look to Rhode Island where they were able to reduce their unfunded pension liability by almost 50 percent. Some of the ways they accomplished this:

Suspend cost of living adjustments until the unfunded pension liability is reduced.

Create a hybrid plan that blends defined benefits and defined contributions.

Increase the minimum retirement age for certain employees, specifically those not at or nearing retirement age.

Preserve pension benefits earned to date, and ensure there is little or no impact on the ability to retire for those currently eligible to retire.

Failure to take bold action all but ensures that our pension system will collapse beneath its unfunded liability and deny public sector workers their retirement benefits.

I also believe the legislator pension program should be eliminated and replaced with a 401(k)-type plan. I plan to lead by example on this reform and will opt out of the legislative pension system that currently exists when I am elected.

I do not support shifting the Teacher Retirement System’s liability and future payments to local property tax payers. Besides adding to what is already an unbearable burden on property tax payers, this has the potential to create unfunded mandates for the local districts because the General Assembly would continue to set benefit levels.



Patch: Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is $83 billion. The state’s inability to address the issue recently led Moody’s to downgrade Illinois’ credit rating. What should be done to address the state’s rising pension obligations?

Kotowski: The first thing we have to remember is that the quickest way out of a hole is to stop digging.

Our pension obligations are a fixed-cost that need to be met. For decades in our state, politicians from both political parties failed to recognize that fact and that led to the financial crisis we now face in our state.  I sponsored the spending reform law to end this reckless practice.

I realize the need to eliminate abuses in the system and the importance of meaningful, pension reform. That is why I led the charge in passing legislation to confiscate the pensions of politicians who are convicted of fraud or corruption, and fought to close loopholes exploited and abused by union officials.

I also sponsored the recent law to eliminate the free healthcare for life benefit for retired politicians and state employees. In addition, I supported the law banning inappropriate gifts to pension board members and strengthening protections against their potential conflicts of interests.

I have supported additional reforms to confront the state’s financial crisis and lessen the burden on Illinois taxpayers. In 2010, I supported the creation of a two-tier pension system for new public employees in our state. This law and its reforms are projected to save taxpayers billions.  

More recently, I publicly urged Speaker Madigan to call HB 1447 for a vote in the House so we can move forward in finalizing critical reforms of the system.

This bill, which passed the Senate, reduces benefits of politicians, prevents future pension abuse and protects the retirement of state employees. It establishes a fair and reasonable framework that will satisfy constitutional questions, and is estimated to save taxpayers $31 billion over the coming decades.

I will continue to support meaningful and fair pension reform while fighting to stop pension abuse and prevent pension double-dipping by politicians. I will also push to stop people from receiving a public pension from a previous job when they are working at another full-time taxpayer funded job.



Sign up for Patch’s daily newsletter, delivered to you inbox with news, information and community. 

Find Patch on Facebook and click the like button.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »