Pension cuts postponed in Illinois Legislature

File photo of Illinois State Capitol building
June 1, 2012 3:25:11 AM PDT
The top Republican in the Illinois House says he is shelving legislation to rein in ballooning government pension costs.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he consulted with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn before concluding the legislation could not pass before the General Assembly ended its spring session Thursday night. He said Quinn will soon call lawmakers back to Springfield to try again.

"This got really ugly the last couple days," said Cross. "But we got to put that stuff aside. We got to get this done."

The votes appeared to dry up after House Speaker Michael Madigan, who helped draft the legislation, came out against the bill.

Just 24 hours earlier, there appeared to be a breakthrough when Madigan backed away from a key sticking point -- how communities outside Chicago would pay for teachers' pensions -- and ceded control of the bill to Republicans.

"We all spend a lot of time, probably wasted energy, trying to figure out what the speaker does sometimes," Cross said. "It's a little curious. You don't as a general rule see people do that. It certainly seemed that he was trying to cleanse his hands of it."

Madigan's version of the bill would force suburban and downstate districts to pay more.

The GOP wanted the status quo, which has Chicago paying for its own teachers' pensions while contributing to a state fund that pays for others.

"It has to come to a halt. You cannot continue to ask the Chicago taxpayers to literally bear the burden for everybody else's teachers, let alone their own," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The bill was also met with opposition from unions which objected to the measure's reduction of cost of living pension raises.

In the House Thursday night, some were pointing fingers.

"I'm going to take fault with our governor for a moment," said State Rep. David Harris/R-Arlington Heights. "He should have been in every corner of this state saying, 'we got a problem, here's my plan.'"

Gov. Quinn said in a statement Thursday night that read, "as I have made clear in action on pension reform is not a choice. We've made great headway on stabilizing our pension system and we are very close to a solution but we are not there yet."

The governor is expected to address the media Friday morning.

Legislators were on the verge of addressing two other financial problems. They approved a $2.7 billion plan to shore up Medicaid earlier in the session, and they began sending pieces of a Spartan new budget to Quinn's desk Thursday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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