Illinois lawmakers fail to pass pension reform

January 9, 2013

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AP/File
Governor Pat Quinn

Illinois legislators ended their session without addressing pension reform. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said his top priority is to deal with the state’s $95 billion pension debt because it’s eating into the budgets of other state programs.

After pushing for a compromised deal for the last several days with no resolution, he offered up an unusual idea. Quinn said he wanted to create an eight-person commission outside the legislature to take on the pensions issue. Commission members would have the power to enact law.

"We have to take an extraordinary action to help break the gridlock," Quinn said while testifying before a House pensions committee.

Union leaders like Dan Montgomery with the Illinois Federation of Teachers quickly trashed the idea.

"For him to say, ‘OK, let’s create a system where I don’t have to sign a bill and it becomes law,’ why’d he become governor? No. He needs to be better than this," Montgomery said.

The committee idea never came up for a full vote before lawmakers adjourned.

Senate President John Cullerton says the new class of legislators who are sworn in Wednesday should take up the issue as soon as possible.

Quinn made repeated efforts over the past few days to encourage lawmakers to pass a plan that deals with the worst pension system in the country. But a meeting over the weekend between legislative leaders and last day imploring from the governor did not create a resolution.

Some of the hangups over pension reform include the constitutionality of any possible proposal, since many lawmakers believe labor groups will sue over any plan that calls for cuts in employees' pensions. Several suburban and downstate lawmakers also opposed a plan to shift the cost of teachers' retirements onto local school districts, saying it would increase local property taxes.

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