Speaker Madigan spreads blame for state budget

Suggests local schools chip in toward teacher pensions

January 24, 2012

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Pension costs that are draining Illinois’ budget could be shared by local school districts.

The idea seems to be gaining steam among top Democrats, including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who gave a rare, hour-long speech at Elmhurst College Tuesday morning to talk about the challenges facing Illinois.  

"We’ve got huge budget problems in this state. Why? Well, number one, there was overspending in the past and many people engaged in the overspending. It wasn’t just one or two people," he said.

Madigan blamed Democrats and Republicans and said pension costs are consuming the budget. He suggested local schools share more of the burden.

"I never found anybody who could tell me why the state of Illinois stepped up one day and said, 'OK, school districts, we’ll just pick up all your pension costs,'" he said.

If the state made schools pay for their retired teachers, it would likely shift the cost to property taxes. It’s an idea that Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Pat Quinn have talked about, too, which means it could become part of legislation this spring.