The legislative countdown continues, as Illinois' General Assembly is set to adjourn Friday. Lawmakers spent their Memorial Day at the capitol, where little apparent progress was made on many of the outstanding issues. The Senate met only briefly yesterday - the bulk of Senators' time was spent in private, partisan meetings.That's where they often make decisions on how to proceed on controversial issues. Like the budget.
Illinois lawmakers remain at odds over how to handle the state's $100 billion of pension debt. But there's a chance that this spring the General Assembly may finally do something about it. After years of no major action, there are not one, but two major packages designed to reign in Illinois' retirement costs. The House and Senate passed competing plans. Both of them seek to save Illinois money by cutting current and retired government workers' benefits. But one important group of government workers are being left out of both deals - judges.
A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised. That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.
There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities. That's a fancy word that basically means "debt."
It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget.
Illinois universities and community colleges have signed on to a deal that would have them pick up the cost of their employees' retirement benefits. It's part of lawmakers' ongoing efforts to reduce how much the state is spending on pensions.
Illinois has cut its spending on universities for years ... and even more reductions are expected next year.
School administrators say it's forced them to hike tuition, and to leave positions unfilled.
The Illinois Senate is expected to vote Thursday on the latest proposal to fix the state's drastically underfunded pension systems. In what's become a multi-year pension debate, many aspects of the plan have been put forth before. But it has one element that makes it unique.
The Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday approved a massive overhaul of state pensions. It's the first time the House has passed such a plan after more than a year of negotiating and many failed attempts.
Its also the first time Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, put his full support behind a specific proposal.
The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning. But the Senate's working on different method.
Wednesday began with a widespread feeling that after more than a year of failed attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, House Speaker Michael Madigan's proposal might be it.
The Illinois House is poised to vote Thursday on an overhaul of the state's pension systems. It would reduce state workers', teachers', and university employees' future retirement benefits. The plan easily advanced out of a House committee Wednesday morning.
There's a feeling in the capitol that after countless attempts to reduce the state's pension debt, this may be it. Insiders say it's significant that the plan's sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan — who rarely takes action without having support locked up.