Giannoulias pushes lawmakers to combine pension systems

State Capitol Bureau

Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is urging lawmakers to throw support behind his much-debated idea to combine the state's pension systems.

Giannoulias asked the Joint Committee on Government Reform today to consider supporting Senate Bill 1734, which would merge the state's five pension system into one. It would be dubbed ILPERS, or the Illinois Public Employees Retirement System.

Giannoulias says consolidating the pension systems will provide two main benefits that are on their own would be worth adopting.

He said ILPERS would save the state tens of millions of dollars a year -- as much as $82 million annually in administrative and other cost savings. It also would reduce the likelihood of insider dealing and corruption within the big-dollar pension systems.

"Together, they are simply too good to pass up," Giannoulias said.

Giannoulias' plan would create a new board to invest pension funds, reducing administrative costs and setting up a system where financial experts are making investment decisions with less influence by political wheeling and dealing. Pension investments were part of the corruption surrounding now ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration.

"If you put all your eggs in one basket, it's easier to watch the basket," Giannoulias said.

But the idea has opposition, most notably from the Teachers Retirement System, which disputes the cost savings numbers.

Rep. Beth Coulson, R-Glenview, also questioned whether consolidating five oversight boards into one could just put all the power into one entity that could be steered wrong.

"You're really putting all your eggs in one basket, and my grandma told me never do that," Coulson said.

Giannoulias said he's willing to work with lawmakers to set the board up properly.

The committee next meets on Monday, March 16, at 3 p.m. at the Capitol to continue its weekly looks at government reform.

State Capitol Bureau