Pensions
7:10 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Today's Pension Vote Will Go, Procedure-Wise

The pension conference committee meets in Chicago over the summer.
The pension conference committee meets in Chicago over the summer.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

This morning, legislators on a special, bipartisan panel formed to reach a compromise on Illinois' pension situation will once again meet in Springfield. Already, most of the committee's members have signed off on a deal.  Beyond that, the measure's fate is uncertain.

No vote is needed this morning; as soon as a majority of the members of the pension conference committee gave their signatures to an agreement, which happened last night, the panel's work could have been done. But members say given the importance, complexity and historic nature of today's vote, it's appropriate to hold a hearing.

It's expected that the General Assembly's two top Democrats and Republicans - Democratic House Speaker Michale Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, as well as House Republican Leader Jim Durking and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno - will present a rare united front, and testify at the committee about the merits of a deal they agreed to last week.

The legislative leaders' plan calls for reductions to state employees' and retirees' pensions and raises the retirement age.

Chair of the conference committee, Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago,says the plan isn't perfect. But he signed onto it in the spirit of compromise.

"We've been having this discussion for several years now, and we cannot afford to continue just a stalemate. We have to move the ball forward," he says.

While having the leaders' weight behind a package would usually all but assure its passage, the plan is getting blasted from the right, and the left. Unions say it goes to far in cutting benefits; conservatives say it doesn't go far enough. Those who support the plan say that shows it strikes the right balance, as Illinois seeks to deal an $100 billion unfunded liability.

After the committee this morning, legislators are expected to hold private negotiations, before voting on the measure -- something which, unlike with a regular vote, the House and Senate could do simultaneously.