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.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, says the General Assembly's two top Democrats and Republicans are meeting on pensions; she says it's easier to reach a consensus with fewer people at the table.
Overhauling Illinois' pension systems is no longer in the hands of the special committee of legislators that met all summer. How to reduce the state’s $100 billion of long-term pension debt is now in the hands of the General Assembly's four leaders.
All summer long, state employees and retirees concerned about their retirement benefits had their eyes on a bipartisan conference committee, but insiders say even the key panel members are no longer part of discussions.
Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to leading Democrats in September as he seeks the state party's endorsement in his campaign for re-election; critics say the governor has been concerned about politics, rather than policy, when it comes to pensions -- for example by stripping legislators of their salaries as punishment for not passing a bill, even as he was absent from negotiations.
Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.
It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.
But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.
The ten members of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee formed to come up with a pension package gather in Chicago in July, for one of the panel's few public meetings. Gov. Pat Quinn did not attend.
Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, sits on the pension conference committee. "There's some concern over ... frankly whether pension systems should get in the business of the market... and philosophically do we really want to go down this road when there's members of these systems that believe all we need to do is make our payment, rightfully so," he says of defined contribution plans.
With an eye toward reaching an agreement in time for the upcoming veto session, legislators on a special pension committee met Friday in Chicago. The conversations focused on giving state employees and teachers a new style of retirement plan.
A member of the Illinois legislature's special committee on pensions says the group is closing in on a compromise. But it remains to be seen whether the measure will have enough support in the full General Assembly.
The 10-members of the bipartisan conference committee have been meeting for more than a month. A good chunk of that time has been waiting for actuaries to analyze the various proposals — seeing how much of Illinois' nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities might be eliminated.
Governor Pat Quinn is giving legislators less than three weeks to come together on a pension overhaul. So far the formation of a rare “conference committee” is the only result of the special legislative session Quinn called to deal with the state’s pension problem.