Illinois legislators reach deal on state's $100 billion pension problem

By Kerry Lester

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27 2013 2:06 p.m. MST

In this June 10, 2013 file photo, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, with Senate President John Cullerton looking on at left, speaks to reporters after a meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago to discuss the state's pension crisis. After more than five months of work, Illinois' legislative leaders announced Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, they've reached a deal to help solve the state's $100 billion pension problem, considered the nation's worst.

M. Spencer Green, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CHICAGO — After more than five months of work, Illinois' legislative leaders announced Wednesday they've reached a deal to help solve the state's $100 billion pension problem, considered the nation's worst.

Leaders announced the agreement, but no details, following a Wednesday meeting.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's staff is putting together an "explanatory memo" for lawmakers and will send details of the proposed legislation to them Friday, said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown.

The Illinois House and Senate will consider the measure in a special session, which has been set for Dec. 3.

Lawmakers have faced considerable pressure to act on pension reform following years of unheeded calls for them to pass a savings plan. Years of skipping or shorting payments have resulted in multiple bond rating downgrades, with key funds being diverted from schools and social services.

The committee tasked with finding a solution was formed in June when lawmakers reached an impasse on competing plans. Gov. Pat Quinn later halted lawmakers' pay until the issue was resolved— a move later found to be unconstitutional by the courts.

The four leaders of the House and Senate have been working with a proposal developed over the summer and autumn by the 10-member committee of lawmakers. The committee plan would have saved the state $138 billion over 30 years.

Despite no knowledge of the details, the state's major employee unions said Wednesday they were opposed to the deal, saying they were left out of negotiations and that they believe elements are unconstitutional.

"We have tried for three years now to work with legislative leaders and the governor to develop pension reform ... that is fair to workers and retirees," American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union spokesman Anders Lindall said Wednesday.

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