With time running short, state lawmakers are still looking to reform how local governments handle police and firefighter pensions -- and deal with complaints from mayors about the proposal.

With time running short, state lawmakers are still looking to reform how local governments handle police and firefighter pensions -- and deal with complaints from mayors about the proposal.

House Bill 5873, sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, would increase the pension eligibility age for police officers and firefighters from 50 to 55 and decrease the maximum pension benefit from 75 percent of pay after 30 years service to 72 percent.

The changes would apply only to new employees. Current employees would continue to work under the current rules.

The measure is estimated to save municipalities about 10 percent on their pension contributions. In the case of the city of Springfield, that would amount to $100,000 annually.

However, many mayors say a different provision could cost cities dearly.

The proposal also calls for an 18-month study of police and firefighter pension payments, to be followed by a requirement that each municipality properly fund its pensions. The cities would have three years to do so – but if they don’t come up with answers, the state could take the communities’ shares of state income tax revenues to pay pension expenses.

The Pension Fairness for Illinois Communities Coalition says that could end up costing Springfield $2.5 million.

Link said municipalities should have ample time to avert a state takeover.

The only thing that would go into effect immediately, he said, would be the benefit reductions.

“If it happened today, (municipalities) would have to (pay),” Link said. “But they have four and a half years. If you can’t figure out something in four and a half years, all of them should be retired.”

The bill was expected to come up for a vote Thursday, but was held in committee. The measure is expected to go through committee and be voted on by the full Senate today.

Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin is expected to testify against the bill in committee today.

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said he has not been contacted by Davlin or any other mayor in his district about the bill, but Bomke said the bill is a step in the right direction.

“It’s reducing some of the burden on local government,” Bomke said.

Brian Feldt can be reached at 217-782-6292.