Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thousands hired in Illinois ahead of new pension system

When it comes to pensions in Illinois, a day can mean all the difference in the world.

Thanks to the eight-month span between Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval of a pension reform bill last spring and its implementation Jan. 1, any public worker hired in Illinois as late as Dec. 31 was enrolled in a far more lucrative pension plan than those hired after that date.

In Springfield, the Springfield School District and the two public colleges were the biggest hirers. The University of Illinois Springfield hired 56 new employees in the eight months between when pension reform was signed and when it took effect. Lincoln Land Community College hired 46 people in the same period, and the school district added 26.

UIS human resources was aware of the impending pension changes when they made the hires, but that did not affect the decisions, said Bob Lael, the school’s human resources director.

“The change in the pension system was not a factor from the HR perspective,” Lael said. “Since we’re under limitations on how many we can hire right now because of the economy, when we get the approval to fill a position, our job is to get it filled as quickly as possible.”

The figure of 56 new employees might be misleading, Lael added. Many of those hired worked in the university system before and probably were already enrolled in the State University Retirement System. UIS is required to enroll all new hires, so they appear in the reported data but might not have had any additional impact on the pension system, he said.

The pension reform was featured in a January 17, 2011, article in The State Journal-Register.

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