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By: Chris Wetterich
June 18, 2012

Illinois will have another set of eyes scrutinizing the finances of the state-funded pension systems under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Meanwhile, Quinn said he, the four legislative leaders and their staffs continue to have daily discussions about legislation to overhaul the pension systems, but have reached no consensus about what to do.

The sticking point is still a desire by the Democrats to shift the costs of teacher, university and community college pensions from the state to local school districts and universities. Republicans oppose the idea.

Senate Bill 179, which passed the legislature unanimously, would create a new position – the state actuary – under Auditor General William Holland.

The actuary would review financial projections by the Teachers’ Retirement System, the State Employees’ Retirement System, the State Universities Retirement System, the General Assembly Retirement System and the Judges’ Retirement System, examine the systems’ annual requests for state funding and make suggested changes.

“It’s an independent person who has that authority to make sure that the actuarial assumptions of each retirement system are correct,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago. “We want a second set of eyes to make sure that it’s accurate. These are fundamental decisions that have to do with the health of the retirement systems.”

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation, said the position does not require a staff nor will it require redoing the work of actuaries who work for the pension systems.

“It really is a second look over the shoulder of the actuaries from the systems themselves,” Currie said. “We just want to make sure that the judgment calls we’re getting from the systems are as close to reality as the human mind can make them.”

Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Springfield, who introduced a constitutional amendment calling for the creation of a new constitutional officer, the actuary general, praised the legislation, arguing it is good to have someone not tethered to the retirement systems examining the pension systems’ finances.

“The idea is now we have somebody to say this is a good idea or this isn’t a good idea,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”

Quinn said he will not call the legislature back to Springfield until he can strike a deal with the legislative leaders on broader pension system changes.


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