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Tuesday, 21 January 2014 02:22

Pension reform won't do much to curb IL debt

   A report being released Tuesday says Illinois' plan to save $160 billion ultimately won't make much of a dent in the state's growing deficits.  

   The University of Illinois' Institute for Government and Public Affairs study says changes to the state's major public pension systems will eliminate their unfunded liability over the next 25 years, but the state's deficit will increase to $13 billion during that time.  Institute researchers projected a $14 billion deficit - a $1 billion difference - if the state had not implemented pension reform.  

   Institute Director Chris Mooney says the study was released as campaigns for the 2014 general election begin to heat up in order to make sure the state's fiscal crisis is talked about.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - With the fight over solving Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension shortfall moving to the courts, the state faces a grim possibility: The plan could be tossed, and Illinois could wind up in an even deeper fiscal hole.

Lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that they say eliminates the $100 billion unfunded pension liability, largely by cutting benefits.

Labor unions say it's unconstitutional and plan to sue once Gov. Pat Quinn signs it.

Court rulings on similar cases elsewhere have varied.

A bankruptcy judge in Detroit said Tuesday that city pensions can be cut.

But in Arizona a court said asking employees to contribute more to their retirement was illegal and made the state repay workers, with interest.

Experts say that could happen in Illinois, which has some of the country's stronger pension protections.

 
Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are set to consider a potentially historic plan to solve the state's worst-in-the-nation $100 billion pension crisis.

   Tuesday will begin with a morning hearing where a bipartisan committee of lawmakers will discuss the proposal. Opponents and supporters also will get a chance to weigh in.

   A clear majority of committee members signed off on the plan Monday, sending it to the floor of the House and Senate.

   Illinois has the nation's worst-funded state pension systems. The bill before the Legislature on Tuesday is estimated to save $160 billion over 30 years by trimming retirement benefits.

   Illinois' legislative leaders and the governor have spent recent days drumming up support for the proposal.

   Labor unions say it's unfair to retirees and believe that some elements are unconstitutional.

 
Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois House will convene for a special session next week on the state's roughly $100 billion pension crisis.

   Both the House and Senate had tentatively set two days aside next week to meet. On Monday House Speaker Michael Madigan's chief of staff emailed representatives, telling them to expect a one-day session starting Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m.

   Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman says senators still have the days on the books and there has been no change for now.

   The four legislative leaders met last week on a plan that could save around $150 billion over the next three decades. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the speaker continued discussions with leaders over the weekend and there was progress.

   The leaders are expected to talk again this week.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An employee pension reform bill passed by the Legislature for the Chicago park district is being watched as a test case for statewide reforms, even as it poses a tricky dilemma for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Lawmakers say passage of the park district reforms shouldn't be interpreted as a blueprint for the success of a larger plan addressing the state's $100 billion pension problem. But it could be a test case for how pension reform deals will be interpreted by the courts.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman credits successful negotiations between the park district and labor union, something that hasn't happened statewide.

Quinn has been a champion of pension reform. But union officials who raised a late objection to the park district plan are among his biggest campaign contributors.

 

Published in Local News
Monday, 21 October 2013 02:52

Illinois veto session begins Tuesday

   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers are set to reconvene Tuesday to address pressing issues such as pension reform and same-sex marriage. But a looming deadline for opponents to challenge sitting lawmakers in 2014 is one reason those issues could be pushed off once again.

   The filing date for anyone considering challenging a legislator in the March primaries in Dec. 9. That could make some lawmakers especially careful about casting controversial votes.

   On the session agenda is proposed tax incentives aimed at keeping the new global headquarters of Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland Company in Illinois. Lawmakers will consider supplementing the $35 billion budget approved in May and hold a hearing to resuscitate talks over expanding gambling in the state.

   Legislation to enforce mandatory minimum prison sentences for felony gun convictions may also be considered.

 

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says the outline of a pension reform proposal from a bipartisan panel is "positive indeed."

However, the Chicago Democrat was less clear about whether he's fully behind it or not, saying he wants to see final details.

He told reporters Sunday after an unrelated event that the panel tasked with coming up with a way to address the state's nearly $100 billion pension problem has made progress.

Pensions have been Quinn's top issue. He recently halted lawmakers' pay after lawmakers missed another one of his deadlines to solve the issue.

The pension committee is considering a plan that would, among other things, end automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees. Increases would instead be linked to the rate of inflation.

Committee members say the details are preliminary.

 

Published in Local News

   SPRINGFIELD, IL (AP) - Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says she's looking into whether Gov. Pat Quinn can legally cut lawmakers' pay.

   Quinn cut $13.8 million for legislators' paychecks from a budget bill Wednesday. He says it's the consequence for lawmakers failing to address the state's $97 billion pension shortfall.

   Topinka says questions have been raised about whether Quinn's actions are constitutional.

   A provision of the Illinois Constitution says changes in lawmaker salary should not take effect during the term in which they were elected.

   Topinka says she has requested a legal review. It should be complete before Aug. 1, when lawmakers are scheduled to receive their next paychecks.

   Quinn says a prior court ruling gives him the authority. He also says he's not changing their salary, just withholding the money to pay it.

 
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

   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
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