Professors, legislators to meet for pension forum


During the open discussion portion of a March 7, 2012, meeting on pension reform, Michael Peddle, assistant dean of academic administration, suggested the state start taxing all pensions in Illinois.

By James Bartley

A town hall-style forum with state legislators on pension reform will be held at noon today in the Holmes Student Center’s Carl Sandburg Auditorium.

Representatives Bob Pritchard, Tom Demmer and Mike Fortner will be in attendance, as will Steve Cunningham, vice president of Administration; and Pam Rosenberg and Jim Lockard, State University Retirement System Member Advisory Committee representatives. There will be an open mic for questions and comments from the audience.

Pension reform is the primary focus of Gov. Pat Quinn. Illinois faces a $100 billion debt in its state pension systems, but legislators are waiting on savings calculations as they weigh options on how to cut costs.

Pension reforms could result in short-term savings for the state budget, but how much savings will not be known until lawmakers settle on a plan.

Andy Small, president of the NIU Operating Staff Council, said the forum is important because there is an impending vote on pension reform.

“It’s been obvious over the past few months that pension reform is imminent,” Small said. “And as state employees we had an understanding when we started our employment that there would be certain benefits that we were entitled to. Obviously the status of that situation has changed, making us quite concerned about what is our pension at this point.”

Faculty Senate President Alan Rosenbaum said the forum gives people a chance to hear about pension reform and state their views.

“A lot of the faculty and staff at NIU are concerned about the various plans that the legislators are talking about and advocating,” Rosenbaum said. “Many of those plans, or components of those plans, are unfavorable to employees, and we want to have an opportunity to find out whether our legislators are supporting plans that we are not happy about, and we also want to have a chance to express ourselves and give employees a chance to tell legislators how they feel about pension reform.”

Rosenbaum said the format of the meeting would give participants the chance to ask questions and talk.

“It’s more of a back-and-forth discussion,” Rosenbaum said. “We just want to have an opportunity to find out how these particular legislators feel about it, what type of plans they seem to be in favor of, and for them to hear what their constituents feel.”

Deborah Haliczer, Supportive Professional Staff Council president, urges all members of the public to attend.

“Pensions are an issue of concern to students as well because our pension system is among the worst in the country and it is one of the factors of faculty and staff leaving the university,” Haliczer said. “If we lose faculty, that could affect the quality of education that students receive.”