SPRINGFIELD—Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed legislation July 29, that would have allowed public university employees who are part of the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) to obtain additional health benefits without making further contributions to the retirement system after they returned to teaching.
The legislation (SB 1059) was sponsored in the House by Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) and in the Senate by Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). It passed the House, 97-12 and the Senate 53-0.
Mitchell told reporters afterward that the governor’s veto could be overriden, but only if Rose started the process, since the bill was introduced in the Senate.
Other legislators said they weren’t surprised by the veto as Rauner had indicated in the spring that he would not approve the legislation if it reached his desk.
Members of SURS received lump-sum retirement distributions upon leaving. Rauner said he vetoed the legislation to avoid “increasing retirement-related costs to the state.” He instead wants legislators to help him develop comprehensive pension reform.
Mitchell’s office said SB 1059 applied only to a small pool of educators and the cost to the state would’ve been minimal.
“A retired employee who elects to accept the lump-sum payout is not eligible to participate in the state's health care program," Rauner said regarding his veto of SB 1059. "If a retired employee later returns to work for the state after accepting a lump-sum payout, he or she no longer contributes to the State Retirement Systems and, therefore, is ineligible to receive additional future retirement benefits...The bill would establish an unequal benefit distribution and expose the state to unforeseen, unfunded costs to the historically underfunded State Employee Group Insurance Program.”
Considering the state budget stalemate that persisted from last summer into 2016, and prompted several universities to scramble to pay bills, halt travel and lay off professors, supporters have said the veto is a good idea, no matter how negligible the expense to the state.