pensions

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

A day after Illinois legislative leaders sued Governor Pat Quinn for vetoing lawmakers' salaries, the governor continued lashing out at the General Assembly for not passing a pension overhaul.

Quinn has consistently tried to portray himself as being engaged in the negotiations over pensions. But members of the legislative committee trying to come up with a compromise say that's not true.

Gov. Pat Quinn
Brian Mackey/WUIS

The leaders of the Illinois General Assembly have sued Governor Pat Quinn over his veto of lawmakers' salaries. They say they're trying to protect the independence of the legislature.

Quinn vetoed lawmakers salaries out of the budget as a sort-of punishment for not passing legislation to overhaul Illinois' government-employee pension systems.

In a joint lawsuit filed in Cook County, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton say the governor overstepped his bounds.

Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington
Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

An influential group of business executives is declining to comment on the possibility it helped to lower Illinois' credit rating. But public employees’ unions are calling for an investigation.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago — and one of its leaders, former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner — were early leaders of the charge to do something about the state's underfunded pensions.

Fahner's been one of the most vocal advocates of doing not just something, but something major, to bring down the state's pension costs.

Gov. Pat Quinn says lawmakers who didn't send him a pension overhaul bill have let down Illinois taxpayers.  
The Chicago Democrat set Tuesday as a deadline for a bipartisan pension panel to report back with a plan. That was even as members of the so-called conference committee formed last month called his deadline arbitrary and irresponsible.  
Quinn says there'll be consequences for lawmakers. He's declined to say exactly what he'd do.  

ilga.gov

A bipartisan panel finished a third meeting about the state's $97 billion pension crisis as another deadline set by Gov. Pat Quinn is set to lapse without a solution.  
The group has now asked for reports of the cost-savings of a university-backed retirement funding proposal after meeting Monday in Springfield. Quinn gave the committee a Tuesday deadline to achieve pension reform.  
Lawmakers moved to form the committee after a compromise couldn't be reached last month.  

Gov. Pat Quinn news conference
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Tuesday is the latest deadline Governor Pat Quinn has set for overhauling Illinois' pension systems.

It's part of what's become an ongoing pattern: Quinn sets a deadline, the General Assembly fails to meet it, Quinn sets another deadline, et cetera. 

We asked Brian Mackey to take a look at the phenomenon, and try to figure out what — if anything — it says about the governor.

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says his July 9 deadline for a pension overhaul stands, even though the leader of a special legislative panel formed to come up with a solution says there's no way to meet it.

It was a similar story about this time last year. 

Doug Whitley, President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, says the state's underfunded pension systems are wreaking havoc in other areas.  He says the growing cost of pension payments is forcing Illinois government to spend less on areas like education and infrastructure. 

After years of state budget cuts, Illinois schools will get roughly level funding under legislation signed into law Thursday. But Governor Pat Quinn says it's still not enough.

Earlier this year, Quinn said Illinois' budget problems meant the state had to reduce school spending. But lawmakers decided not to cut the education budget, in part because Illinois collected more taxes in April than it anticipated.

The extra money will go to elementary and high schools, community colleges, and public universities. It also funds MAP grants for needy college students.

Gov. Pat Quinn says Illinois will pay an extra $130 million in interest on a bond issue this week due to lowered credit ratings because the state has not been able to solve its pension crisis.  
The state sold $1.3 billion in bonds to pay for transportation projects around the state, including redevelopment of a Chicago mass transit line, road repairs and new buildings at university campuses.  

An Illinois House and Senate conference committee will meet tomorrow in Chicago as members try to work out a compromise on the state's pension problem.
Ten lawmakers, six of them Democrats, make up the panel.  It was formed after a pension deal eluded the General Assembly in the spring.  Republican Jil Tracy of Mount Sterling is among those given the task of coming up with a solution.

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.

Amanda Vinicky

Members of Illinois' General Assembly return to the capitol Wednesday for a special session on pensions, where they're expected to pass off the problem to a yet another legislative committee. 

                      

    

What to do about Illinois' $100 billion pension debt has confounded legislators for years.

The most recent barrier: the House and Senate -- as well as the chambers' respective leaders -- are fixated on different plans.  So they've agreed to a new approach they're putting in motion Wednesday.

ilga.gov

What will the special legislative session next week accomplish?

"Nothing," says Rep. Rich Brauer (R-Petersburg).  Brauer was a guest on WUIS' Illinois Edition Thursday.  He talks pensions, concealed carry, same sex marriage and the state budget:

Illinois' credit rating has suffered another downgrade.

It follows the General Assembly's adjournment Friday without any agreement on what to do about the state's pension systems.

 

A string of previous downgrades already left Illinois with the lowest bond rating in the nation.

None of those spurred legislators to reach a compromise - and there's no telling if this latest one will be any different.

Fitch lowered Illinois from an A to an A- rating, a status that means it may cost more when the state borrows money.

The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly rejected legislation on Thursday that would curtail government employees' and teachers' retirement benefits.

It raises the question of whether lawmakers will do anything to address Illinois' indebted retirement systems before they adjourn Friday night.

The pension-cutting legislation passed the House at the start of month.

But when it got a vote in the Senate yesterday, it didn't just fail - it plunged.  The Senate vote was 16 to 42.

Amanda Vinicky

Even as the legislative session winds down -- its last day is Friday -- there's no agreement on a solution to the state's pension problem.   

It's not like the problem came out of nowhere.  The $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability accumulated over decades.

And legislators have been talking about what to do about it for years.   Especially this session.

The House and Senate each passed legislation to cut Illinois' costs by reducing state employees and teachers' retirement benefits.  But both measures are stalled in the opposite chamber.

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Members of the Illinois House continued pushing for their version of a pension overhaul Tuesday. The latest twist could affect how public school teachers' pensions are funded. Brian Mackey has more.

One of the more contentious issues in the debate over government pensions in Springfield has been who should pay for teachers' retirement benefits.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

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. 

Brian Mackey / WUIS

There are five days left in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session. Legislators have a lot of work ahead of them.  The House adjourns on Memorial Day at noon; the Senate convenes at 4 p.m.

                   

  

                                       

Typically, fighting over the budget carries into the waning hours of a legislative session.

But Democrats - who have enough seats to pass a spending plan without any Republican votes - say they've already reached a deal.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

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.

Amanda Vinicky

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.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

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.

Amanda Vinicky

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. 

Charlie Wheeler headshot
WUIS/Illinois Issues

“All newspaper editorial writers ever do,” the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Murray Kempton once observed, “is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded.”

Whether Illinois legislators are wounded may be a matter of debate, but they certainly were the targets of a heavy barrage of scorn and disdain from the state’s media mavens in the aftermath of the spring session’s turmoil.

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