Pension reform is one of the issues facing candidates in the race for 65th District state representative.
Geneva Library Board Trustee Steve Andersson, Geneva resident Daniel Ugaste of Geneva and Elgin resident Debbie Miller are seeking the Republican nomination in the March 18 primary. There are no Democratic candidates running for the seat in the primary.
The three are running for the seat currently held by State Rep. Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia, who is not seeking re-election. He first was elected to the House in 1999. The district represents parts of Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Campton Hills, Plato Center, South Elgin, Hampshire and Huntley.
All the candidates agree that the pension reform legislation approved last year by the Illinois General Assembly does not go far enough. Lawsuits filed by public labor unions and retirees have challenged the constitutionality of the legislation.
Among other things, the legislation includes reducing annual cost-of-living-adjustments, phasing in increases in retirement ages, instituting a pensionable salary cap and reducing employees’ contributions by one percentage point.
“I’m sure it doesn’t go far enough,” Miller said. “We have this mandate that we have to have enough money to pay our public employees when they retire. On the other hand, the people have to pay for it. We have to work it out so that it is affordable, and works for everyone. We need to make it work for everyone.”
Ugaste said he didn’t want “to take from anybody what they’ve earned in the past.”
“Something more has to be done,” Ugaste said. “That at best was a first step. We need to look at further reforms, such as raising the age, capping the amount anyone can receive, and whether people should be able to receive two pensions versus just one.”
Andersson said he hopes the courts provide direction as they look at the constitutionality of the legislation.
“What I’m hoping is that whatever the courts decide, that they provide us a road map,” he said. “If they uphold it as constitutional, that’s great. If they don’t, they’ll tell us where the defects are in the law. If they do that, then we can pass meaningful reform and hopefully get it right a second time.”