Illinois’ top public officials met behind closed doors Friday to discuss the state’s $100 billion pension debt. And still, there is no clear compromise on pension reform.
The meeting, and pensions stalemate, comes as Gov. Pat Quinn called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session next week to address pension reform.
Without a compromise from legislative leaders, lawmakers have been left wondering why the special session is necessary.
Quinn said Friday he wants state senators to re-vote on a bill they soundly rejected two weeks ago, but was approved in the House.
“I’m going to make a Herculean effort to get ‘yes’ votes on that bill,” Quinn told reporters.
But Senate President John Cullerton says getting 20 senators to flip their votes will be tough.
“So, uh, I’m not very optimistic,” Cullerton said.
Meantime, Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno says she was uncomfortable at Friday’s meeting watching Democratic leaders disagree.
Democrats hold supermajorities in the House and Senate in Springfield and the leaders in those two chambers have yet to see eye-to-eye on the best way to reduce retirement benefits of state employees.
“I kind of felt like I was witness an awkward family fight,” Radogno said. “It’s clear that there’s not agreement, even close to agreement between the Democrats.”
Quinn also requested that lawmakers form a rare, special panel of lawmakers, called a conference committee, to come up with an agreed-upon pension plan. But that, too, was rejected by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
“I’m concerned on the conference committee that it’s an effort by the governor to distance himself from the process,” Madigan said.
But Quinn defended that plan, saying conference committees are designed to break a legislative stalemate when no other solutions are present.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.