Voters will decide constitutional amendment on pension increases.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, seen in February, sponsored a constitutional amendment asking voters if it should be tougher to increase government employee pension benefits. (E. Jason Wambsgans / February 22, 2012)

Illinois voters this fall will be asked whether to make it tougher for state and local governments to sweeten public employee pensions under a proposal lawmakers approved today.

The proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution goes directly to the November ballot following the Senate's 51-2 vote. The House previously approved the measure, sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats.

The ballot question asks voters whether a three-fifths vote by state lawmakers, city councils and school districts should be required to increase government employee pension benefits.

The three-fifths threshold for approving pension boosters is a higher bar than the simple majority required at most levels of government, including pension boards that also would be covered under the plan.

The action comes as the state of Illinois faces a yawning gap in public pension funding and follows Tribune stories that have exposed how public officials and union members have padded pensions with lucrative sweeteners.

The measure also potentially serves as an attempt to channel voter anger over burgeoning costs of public pensions.

The proposal also would require a two-thirds vote for lawmakers to override a governor's veto or accept a governor's proposed changes in a rewrite of pension increase legislation. Currently, it takes a three-fifths vote to override an outright veto and only a simple majority to accept a governor's changes.