Pensions - WUIS Special Coverage

Below are the latest stories on the pension issue in Illinois.  

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Statehouse
5:16 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Quinn Asking Supreme Court To Back Him In Lawmaker Pay Dispute

Gov. Pat Quinn has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to hear his appeal of a ruling that his veto of money for lawmaker salaries was unconstitutional.  
Attorneys for Quinn filed a motion with the court Wednesday. They say the case deserves an ``expeditious and conclusive'' ruling by the state's highest court.  
Quinn vetoed money for paychecks in July because he was angry legislators hadn't addressed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.  
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued, saying his action was unconstitutional.  

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Salary Veto
3:32 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Court Rejects Latest Quinn Effort To Withhold Lawmakers' Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn

A state appellate court has denied Gov. Pat Quinn's request to withhold lawmakers' pay while he appeals a ruling that his veto of legislative salaries was unconstitutional.
 
Quinn vetoed $13.1 million for lawmaker pay in July as a consequence of the Legislature not addressing Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension shortfall.
 
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton sued, saying the veto was unconstitutional.
 

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State Week
1:25 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Listen To State Week - September 27, 2013

This week's topics include a court decision preventing Governor Quinn from blocking Illinois lawmakers' pay, the Illinois Democratic Party's official endorsement of Pat Quinn in the next gubernatorial race, and new reports indicating that conditions in the state's juvenile detention facilities are not improving.

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Breaking
3:02 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Judge: Gov. Quinn Must Pay Lawmakers

Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of lawmakers salaries has been ruled unconstitutional.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A Cook County judge has ruled that Gov. Pat Quinn's decision to halt lawmaker pay over the pension crisis is unconstitutional and has ordered Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to pay them immediately.

Judge Neil Cohen made the ruling Thursday.

He says the state Constitution makes it clear that lawmakers' pay can't be changed while serving they're serving their terms.

Quinn used his line-item veto to cut money for legislators' salaries from the state budget because they hadn't fixed Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

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Pension Overhaul
6:46 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Pension Conference Committee Progress Report

Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville (left) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, discuss estimated savings of a previous plan designed to cut the state's pension costs.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

It is approaching four months since the Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session. Lawmakers have missed two paychecks since the governor decided to punish them for not passing a pension overhaul. And a special committee has been negotiating over how to solve the pension problem for more than 12 weeks. Amanda Vinicky checks in with members of that committee for a progress report.
 

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Illinois Supreme Court
6:30 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Should State Retirees Pay For Health Insurance?

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Retired state workers who collect pensions in Illinois started paying health insurance premiums this summer. That's because of a change in the law last year — previously health insurance was free for anyone who retired with at least 20 years of service.

A number of retirees sued over the change. The case was argued Wednesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

A few months ago, Illinois began collecting one percent of pension income from retirees who are eligible for Medicare, two percent from those who aren't.

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Pensions
6:50 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Pension Plan Not Finalized, But The End May Be Near

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), courtesy of ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work.

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it - saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits. Business groups say it doesn't go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

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Statehouse
5:11 pm
Fri August 23, 2013

Pension Framework Could Save $145 Billion

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Credit ilga.gov

A bipartisan panel tasked with solving Illinois' multibillion-dollar pension crisis is considering a framework that could save the state about $145 billion over 30 years.  

The Associated Press on Friday obtained an outline of ideas the 10-person committee is considering.  


It calls for ending automatic 3 percent cost-of-living increases for retirees. Increases would instead be linked to the rate of inflation.  


Employees would have to pay 1 percent less to their own retirement. And the pension systems would be fully funded within 30 years.  

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Pensions
5:03 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Pension Returns Up; Problems Remain

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public pension fund hit a major low in 2012, its rate of return was less than one percent.  But an early analysis shows the last fiscal year was better than expected. The success isn’t expected to make much of a dent in Illinois’ nearly $100 billion dollar pension liability, however, which lawmakers thus far have failed to tackle.   

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Pensions
8:34 am
Tue August 20, 2013

Few Details On Pension Progress

Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook)
Credit ILGA.gov

A panel of ten Illinois lawmakers has been working this summer to find a solution to Illinois' pension problem.  With an unfunded liability of about 100-billion dollars, payments to the public pension systems are taking up a larger chunk of overall state government spending. 

WUIS'  Sean Crawford spoke with Representative Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and one of the leaders in the push to change how retirement systems are funded. 

Recent meetings of the committee have occurred in private, making it difficult to determine progress.  But Nekritz says she's hopeful:

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Election 2014
8:43 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Pension Chairman Raoul Possible Democratic Challenger

Chair of the pension conference committee Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) talks with Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) at a July meeting in Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn already has one primary challenger, but there's talk he may get more. 

A lot of politicians are heading to the capital city this week; it's the State Fair, and a time for annual political meetings and rallies.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul was driving down from Chicago Tuesday afternoon, in time for his fundraiser last night at a Springfield bar.

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Pensions
10:02 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

After Long Silence, Quinn Aide Meets With Key Pension Lawmaker

Sen. Kwame Raoul, standing at right, presided over a hearing on pension legislation in this July 3, 2013 file photo.
Credit 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.

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Salary Veto
6:30 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Legislative Leaders Sue Governor Over Pay

Gov. Pat Quinn is seen at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in this July 29, 2013 file photo.
Credit 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.

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Conference Committee
6:00 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Lawmakers Said To Be Compromising On Pensions

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, announces his candidacy for governor in this June 26, 2013 file photo.
Credit 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.

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Pensions
6:11 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Business Group Refuses Comment on Bond Accusation

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.

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Pensions
6:24 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Governor Says Lawmakers Let Down Taxpayers

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.  

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Statehouse
7:18 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

Pension Committee Won't Hit Gov's Deadline

Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago)
Credit 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.  

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Pensions
6:57 am
Mon July 8, 2013

Quinn, Deadlines And Legislative Deadlock

Gov. Pat Quinn set his latest deadline for pension legislation — July 9 — in a Capitol news conference on June 19, 2013.
Credit 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.

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Conference Committee
5:33 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Stalemate On When Pension Stalemate Must End

Democratic legislators Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) prepare to begin the General Assembly's conference committee hearing on pensions.
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. 

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Business
9:16 am
Wed July 3, 2013

Illinois Chamber President Urges Pension Overhaul

Doug Whitley

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. 

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Education Budget
4:28 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Despite Level Funding, Quinn Says Pensions Still Squeezing Schools

Gov. Pat Quinn

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.

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Pensions
3:56 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Quinn Says Lower Credit Rating Costly

Governor Pat Quinn

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.  

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Statehouse
4:20 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Representative Says Pension Deal Could Happen Soon

Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Mt. Sterling)

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.

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Pensions
1:58 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Legislature Forms Group Tasked With Finding Pension Fix

Brian Mackey/WUIS

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.

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Pensions
7:32 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Special Session's Special Move: Creating a Conference Committee

House Speaker Mike Madigan has a front row seat Tuesday during a House committee on pensions, as the General Assembly's poised to form the first conference committee in years.
Credit 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.

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Statehouse
11:18 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Brauer Predicts Nothing Special In Special Session

State Rep. Rich Brauer
Credit 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:

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Credit Downgrade
5:32 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

After No Pension Deal, Fitch Lowers Illinois' Credit Rating

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.

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Pension Reform
12:26 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Pension Standoff Remains Heading Into Last Day Of Session

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.

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Pensions
7:00 am
Thu May 30, 2013

Pension Solution Eludes Top Democrats ... Still

Credit 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.

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Pensions
5:19 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Rep: Pension Shift Would Cost Schools Nothing

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
Credit 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.

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