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   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The estimated savings on a pension proposal backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan earlier this year is nearly $25 billion less than originally thought.

   That's because the Teachers Retirement System - one of Illinois' five pension systems - says it made a mistake in its calculations. The change was outlined in a Monday letter to a bipartisan panel tasked with coming up with an approach to solving Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

   Madigan's plan involves across-the-board cuts in benefits. It was originally touted to save Illinois about $187 billion over 30 years. However, the new estimate is about $163 billion in the same time period.

   Another plan from Senate President John Cullerton, which had union support, was estimated to save roughly $47 billion over the same timeframe.

 

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A bipartisan group of Illinois lawmakers tasked with pension reform will meet in Springfield on the day before a special legislative session is convened.

   Senate Democrats say the 10-member committee will meet Monday. The House and Senate are scheduled to convene Tuesday to consider Gov. Pat Quinn's amendatory veto on concealed carry legislation.

   While Quinn originally called the Legislature back July 9 to deal with pensions, it is unlikely the issue will be voted on by that deadline.

   Committee members met last week in a grueling five-hour public session where little was resolved. They are scheduled to meet again Wednesday.  Members say they are hopeful progress is being made, but legislation has yet to be drafted.

   Illinois' worst-in-the-nation unfunded pension liability hovers around $100 billion.

 
Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Members of a bipartisan panel tasked with coming up with a plan to address Illinois' pension crisis don't all agree with Gov. Pat Quinn's July 9 deadline to report back with a solution.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul says it could take longer than that. He spoke to reporters Thursday before the panel's first public hearing. He says another hearing will take place next week.

The 10-member panel was formed after a special session this month. Both chambers remain divided and the group has been charged with finding compromise.

Republican Sen. Mat Murphy says July 9 is a reasonable target.

Six Democrats and four Republicans are on the committee.

Illinois has the worst state pension shortfall nationwide, largely due to lawmakers skipping or shorting payments to public-employee retirement funds.

 
Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - With just three days to go, lawmakers are inching along on a solution to Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis

Both chambers are at odds with how to move forward with two complete overhauls. Meanwhile, three smaller pension bills - dealing with retirement age, salary caps and cost-of-living increases - have moved out of a committee to the Senate floor. Senators could vote on those before Friday's adjournment.

A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says lawmakers are trying multiple approaches to send Gov. Pat Quinn a complete plan.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a key player in pension talks, says a bill that'd require state universities and community colleges to start picking up their own pension costs was expected to be filed Wednesday.

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois union leaders are encouraging lawmakers to support a pension reform proposal that they recently agreed on with the state's Senate president.

   A coalition of unions announced Monday that it reached an agreement with Senate President John Cullerton on a possible solution to the state's $97 billion pension crisis.

   Michael Carrigan is the president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. He says the group is trying to ensure fairness for public employees and retirees. The union-backed measure gives workers and retirees a choice of benefit packages.

   Carrigan says the group is asking legislators to oppose a solution that House Speaker Michael Madigan backs. Madigan's plan calls for higher pension contributions from employees and limits on how much in pension benefits retirees may collect.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says he will keep working to pass a pension reform bill he believes can survive a court challenge.

   Rikeesha Phelon says Cullerton and fellow Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan have "the same goal but different approaches" to solving Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

   Madigan filed his pension plan on Tuesday. It caps the salary on which a pension can be based at $110,000 and limits annual cost-of-living increases.

   Madigan's legislation also removes language from a plan backed by Cullerton that got Senate approval last month. Cullerton's plan offers affected state-government employees and teachers a choice of benefits instead of unilaterally cutting them.

   Cullerton believes the state must give retirees a choice in benefits in order for the legislation to be considered constitutional.

Published in Local News
CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says any overhaul of Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension problem should have a funding guarantee.

He spoke yesterday just days after House lawmakers approved their third pension-related bill. The latest would reduce and delay cost-of-living increases in state employees' retirement pay.

Pensions have been Quinn's top issue for more than a year. He says lawmakers' work last week was a step in the right direction but there's further to go. Quinn says any reform package should address retirement age and pensionable salary.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension debt because lawmakers skipped or shorted pension payments for years.

House lawmakers recently OK'd bills that would cap the salary on which benefits are based to the limit set for Social Security and delay the retirement age incrementally.
Published in Local News
Friday, 22 March 2013 02:43

IL House passes pared down pension plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House has approved a stripped-down pension plan that could delay and reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees and future retirees.

The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and comes out of a laborious process where lawmakers are addressing the pension problem piece by piece instead of a total overhaul at once. House members voted in favor 66-50 yesterday. It's the third scaled-back pension bill the House has recently approved.

Thursday's proposal says that no cost-of-living increases can be taken until retirees reach 67 years of age, or five years after retirement and applies COLAs only to the first $25,000 of an annual pension.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability because for years lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Senate has approved on a second vote Senate President John Cullerton's proposal overhauling teacher pensions.

Minutes earlier senators rejected the plan; it was shy one vote to pass. Cullerton used a parliamentary procedure to recall the bill. The second vote yesterday was 30-22.

Cullerton's amended plan addresses the Teachers' Retirement System and is estimated to save up to $40 billion over the next 30 years. It also offers employees a choice on whether they want retirement health care or reduced annual cost-of-living increases.

Opponents say the plan doesn't go far enough in addressing Illinois' pension crisis. Illinois has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability.

Earlier in the day senators rejected a total overhaul sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Biss.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to call today for additional cuts and more scrutiny of money that's automatically sent to local governments, public transportation and other programs as he presents his proposed budget.

The Chicago Democrat will propose slashing $400 million from education in the fiscal year that starts July 1. It also will pin the blame for the cuts on lawmakers' failure to fix the state's worst-in-the-nation pension problem.

The automatic fund transfers include more than $2 billion in spending that Quinn's aides describe as "on autopilot." The amount those programs receive is set in state statute. Trying to cut it is likely to cause a contentious debate.

Quinn's proposed budget also attempts to pay down $2 billion in unpaid bills.
Published in Local News
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