84th District State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit

84th District State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) (file photo)

State Representative Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) has cosponsored a series of bipartisan pension bills the first of which is HB 4098, a bill that tackles the pressing issues surrounding Illinois' pension system. The legislation is a culmination of Subject Matter hearings held by the Illinois House Personnel and Pension Committee, which Kifowit chairs.

Members of the General Assembly are fully aware of the seriousness of Illinois' pension situation. The Personnel and Pension Committee dedicated extensive hours to listen to expert testimonies on the challenges posed by the Tier 2 pension system. Kifowit emphasized the need to transition from discussions to concrete actions, stating that the bill serves as a starting point for comprehensive discussions on true solutions that must be implemented swiftly for the benefit of the state.

Recognizing the cost involved in fixing the pension system, Kifowit emphasized that the longer the needs of Illinois' employees go unaddressed, the higher the compounding cost becomes. To facilitate discussions on expenses and revenues required for establishing a sound pension system, additional Subject Matter hearings will be conducted throughout the summer and fall.

HB 4098 encompasses several components that have been extensively discussed within the Personnel and Pension Committee, as well as input gathered from various stakeholder meetings during the session.

A notable provision is the discontinuation of the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) and the Judges' Retirement System, with future members being offered enrollment into the existing State Employees' Retirement System (SERS). Kifowit criticized these two systems as the worst funded in the state and deemed their creation solely for the purpose of providing better benefits to elected officials as unacceptable.

In addition, HB 4098 introduces a statewide Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) and expands the Pension Buy-Out program to include more participants. It aims to meet the safe harbor provision over an eight-year timeframe and establish an average Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) percentage based on a three-year running average, rather than a year-to-year calculation. The bill also establishes a tiered retirement age schedule.

Furthermore, HB 4098 raises the target funding percentage from 90% to 100% and identifies $1 billion in annual funding when two bond issues are retired. This shift allows for additional funding already allocated in the current budget. However, future Subject Matter hearings will address additional revenue sources to achieve 100% funding by 2050 or earlier.

"This legislation marks the first substantive step toward addressing our Tier 2 system, identifying dedicated revenue sources, and ensuring fair benefits for our hardworking employees in the state of Illinois," Kifowit affirmed. She expressed her anticipation of receiving input from all stakeholders during meetings scheduled throughout the summer and fall.

Kifowit has also filed HB 4099, which adjusts the pension age for individuals involved in various security duties for the state of Illinois. This bill will also undergo full consideration during the summer and fall months.

"These individuals work in very stressful situations, and we need to evaluate HB 4099 in conjunction with HB 4098 to ensure they receive the proper pension they deserve," Kifowit noted.

Representative Steve Reick (R), the Minority Spokesperson, is listed as the Chief Co-sponsor on both bills.