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CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says the state's $97 billion pension shortfall isn't as dire as some people are describing.

The Chicago Democrat told WGN Radio that the pension shortfall is not an imminent crisis, but that finding a solution can help keep Illinois' income taxes down.

Cullerton made the remarks as lawmakers head back to Springfield to begin their fall veto session Tuesday. They face considerable pressure to deal with the pension problem, considered the nation's worst. But a bipartisan committee working on reform is split over a plan that saves $138 billion over 30 years.

Cullerton says the state has been putting more money into its pension systems in recent years under a 1996 law.  He says he wants to lower the annual amount the state pays in.

 

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn is using his veto power to try and suspend state lawmakers' pay because of their inaction on Illinois' pension crisis.

The Chicago Democrat is announcing the news Wednesday. He says there'll be no paychecks for legislators until they get the job done.

The Associated Press obtained details of the plan before Wednesday's announcement.

Quinn's using his line-item veto power in a budget bill that's on his desk. Lawmakers have to approve his changes.

The bill gives the state comptroller the ability to issue paychecks to state employees. Quinn's announcement comes a day after he said there would be consequences for lawmakers who didn't send him a pension overhaul plan by Tuesday's deadline.

The state has nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability, the worst of any state.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have convened a special session in Springfield, where they're expected to move ahead with plans to form a committee to deal with pensions.

Moving to committee requires a vote by both the House and Senate.

Gov. Pat Quinn met separately with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Wednesday morning.

Republican House Leader Tom Cross says the governor wants to move ahead quickly so pension reform can be voted on by early July in another special session.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each would get three appointees to the 10-member committee. Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH'-nyoh) each would get two.

Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Public school administrators say some local districts would have to raise property taxes if they're forced to cover the cost of teacher pensions.

   The school officials testified Thursday at a special hearing called by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

   The Chicago Democrat says suburban and downstate districts get a "free lunch" because the state pays their teacher pension costs. He says Illinois is in grave financial trouble and the districts must be part of the solution.

 

   The administrators say potential tax increases would depend on how much money districts have and how much of the burden the state shifts to districts.

 

   Public university representatives also testified Thursday. They say the change could result in a 2 percent tuition increase.

 

   Madigan has vowed to address the issue before the General Assembly adjourns.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension-reform plan deserves a Senate vote.

The Democratic governor said the proposal is comprehensive.

Illinois has nearly $100 billion in pension debt because of years of state underfunding.

Senate President John Cullerton has a different idea he plans to call for a vote Thursday afternoon. Public employee unions back that proposal.

The House approved the Madigan bill last week. It would require employees to pay 2 percent more toward retirement benefits. It would reduce annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raise the retirement age for workers under 45.

Cullerton's proposal would offer employees a choice between health insurance or cost-of-living increases. He says it would survive a court challenge.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A union-backed alternative for fixing the Illinois pension crisis gets a test vote Wednesday afternoon in Springfield.

A Senate committee is holding a hearing on the measure giving workers and retirees a choice of benefit packages. Senate President John Cullerton says it saves money and would survive a legal challenge.

Critics say it won't save enough money.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - State senators are expected to consider two possible paths toward addressing the nation's worst pension crisis.

One option is legislation approved in the Illinois House last week. That bill is sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan. It would require public employees to pay 2 percent more toward their retirement benefits. It would also reduce annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raise the retirement age for workers under 45.

Labor unions also are expected to pitch a plan. The details of that proposal have not been disclosed. But a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton says it would offer employees a choice between health insurance or cost-of-living increases.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the two options in a closed-door meeting on Monday before convening on the Senate floor.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois House has approved a comprehensive pension-reform plan for the first time after years of talks.

The House voted 62-51 Thursday to advance the measure sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The Chicago Democrat's proposal is designed to close a $97 billion deficit that dogs the state's pension plans. Underfunding for decades has left the accounts short of what they need.

The legislation requires employees to contribute 2 percent more of their earnings to their pensions. They would also have to delay retirement and accept less-generous annual cost-of-living increases.

The state would guarantee it would make its required contribution every year.

The measure now goes to the Senate where President John Cullerton has his own ideas about reform.

 

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

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