Pensions, Medicaid eyed during legislative session

January 31, 2012

Some Illinois state lawmakers say cutting Medicaid spending and pension costs are top priorities during the legislative session that starts Tuesday.

Democrats and Republicans say reforming those programs could be the only way to solve the state's budget crisis.

Matt Murphy is a Republican state senator from northwest suburban Palatine. He said state workers may have to retire later or contribute more to their pensions in order to ease the state's massive pension burden.

"I don't relish the fact that we have to change the rules of the game in the middle," Murphy said. "But the truth is, if we don't do some meaningful things to reform pensions, you're gonna have people who are counting on a check when they're 75, getting an IOU in the mail instead."

In a statement Monday, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn suggested that local schools and universities should contribute more to their workers' pensions. He also called for an "aggressive restructuring" of the state's Medicaid program.

Quinn doesn't seem likely to address the state's daunting fiscal challenges at length when he delivers his State of the State address Wednesday. A spokeswoman said the governor will instead focus on his accomplishments during the past year, and his "ambitious jobs agenda." Quinn is set to give his annual budget address in February.