Free health insurance is a benefit given to retirees who have had had long careers in Illinois government, whether they're state workers or public university employees. Legislators who serve as little as four years also get free health care when they retire. They'll all have to pitch in, under a measure an Illinois committee approved Wednesday. It takes away the perk, and allows the governor's administration to decide how much of a retirees' health care premium the state will pay for each year. Joanna Beth Gauvin, who's with AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union, says health benefits should be decided during contract negotiations, which are ongoing:
"This has always been part of the collective bargaining process. It's always been part of a broader compensation package. That collective bargaining process should be honored. The administration should be focusing its efforts on that process as opposed to seeking interference in the legislative process."
But Governor Pat Quinn, House Speaker Mike Madigan and House Republican Leader Tom Cross all back the legislation. They say Illinois is unable to afford the nearly 900 million dollars spent each year to cover retirees' health insurance costs. They're admittedly using the plan as leverage as they fight with unions over proposed cuts to CURRENT state employees' pensions.
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