May 9, 2014

Dear colleagues:

Yesterday, the board of the State Universities Retirement System (SURS) approved an emergency rule that will preserve benefits employees have already earned under the “money purchase” option.

The SURS board’s emergency ruling addresses an unintended glitch in the state’s new pension law, and guarantees that the retirement benefits employees have earned as of June 30, 2014, will not be reduced – even if they retire months or years later.

Before the ruling, those benefit levels under “money purchase” would have been locked in as of June 30, 2013, eliminating a year of contributions and interest, and creating an incentive for employees to retire, whether they wanted to or not.

More details are expected next week on the SURS website.

I hope that the SURS ruling provides assurance to employees who were considering retirement before June 30, 2014, to avoid losing benefits they had already earned. And I hope they will now stay with us – sharing the talents that are the heart of our excellence and our standing as a world leader in education and innovation.

Employees will receive an email from Human Resources with additional information.

Needless to say, the SURS ruling provides a fix only for the glitch in the “money purchase” option, and there are other provisions of the state’s new pension law that will negatively impact employees when it takes effect on July 1, 2014. Whether those provisions hold will ultimately be decided as legal challenges to the new law make their way through the courts.

I am grateful to the SURS board for its decision to correct the “money purchase” problem, and its efforts to curb large-scale retirements that would have cut deeply into the quality of our academic and research missions, and our service to students and the state.

I also want to thank House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose letter to SURS helped clarify the legislature’s intent to preserve money purchase benefits that have already been earned.

And I want to thank University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Kennedy and Avijit Ghosh, my senior advisor, for their leadership on this critical issue and their commitment to our employees by personally attending the SURS board meeting and advocating on behalf of employees at the state’s public universities.


Robert A. Easter