House ok’s downstate public safety pension consolidation, local reps opposed

The Illinois House approved Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan on Wednesday to consolidate hundreds of local pension programs covering police officers and firefighters to boost investment returns and save administrative costs.

Local civic leaders like Mayor John Pritchard and City Manager Todd Thompson have advocated for such a move in the last few years.

Thompson said in June that if nothing was done to offer relief to municipality’s public safety pensions, that town’s like Galesburg might enter a “pay-as-you-go” system in which the city will have essentially have to put in as much to fund as is needed for benefits paid out that year.

The plan by Democratic Rep. Jay Hoffman of Swansea was OK’d 96-14.

Both Galesburg’s Republican Representatives, Dan Swanson and Norine Hammond were opposed.

The plan would create two statewide pension accounts – police and fire – out of nearly 650 municipal plans.

Combined the two funds would have $15 billion in assets. Democrat Pritzker says the greater investment power could generate an additional $2.5 billion over the first five years.

Hoffman says the plan would reduce costs on local governments struggling to fully fund pensions while paying for city services.

The legislation moves to the Senate with one day left in the Legislature’s fall session.