Pension reform bill backfires on Rauner

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Another pension reform plan appears to have backfired for Ill. Governor Bruce Rauner. (WLS)

Another pension reform plan appears to have backfired for Ill. Governor Bruce Rauner.

The governor says he supports an overhaul plan by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton as long as it includes a clause to remove wage increases from the collective bargaining process.

Cullerton says there's no deal.

Illinois Republicans announced Thursday morning they had a deal with a top Democratic leader to resolve the state's $110 billion pension debt, only to hear shortly thereafter, that no such deal existed.

The governor began with another salvo at House Speaker Mike Madigan and the fact the Democratic leader's chamber has not considered another pension reform bill.

"Speaker Madigan, completely unreasonable, irresponsible as a leader of the legislature," Rauner said.

Madigan's 2013 effort that reduced some retiree benefits was ruled unconstitutional last year.

So Rauner says "in the spirit of compromise" he will now support Cullerton's shelved proposal to give state workers a choice between pensionable pay raises now or higher cost-of-living adjustments after they retire. It's the union-endorsed plan Madigan rejected two years ago.

"Let's bring it back, let's vote on it and let's get it done," Rauner said.

"I guarantee that I will put more votes on this bill than I was able to do in the last round," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R), minority leader.

But Cullerton says he never agreed to something Rauner added: that is to end collective bargaining - or union input - on how the plan works.

"This is not my plan," wrote Cullerton. "Not the plan we discussed this morning, and it does not have my support."

Meanwhile, Madigan - holding firm in the bitter budget dispute with the governor - said on pension reform that Rauner "will continue to demand changes that will drive down the wages and standard of living of middle-class families."

State Rep. Mary Flowers said she suspects an attempt to divide the Democratic leaders.

"By the divide, how will that create jobs and help rebuild the infrastructure of the state of Illinois, tell me how?" she said.

"It will save $1 billion a year for Illinois taxpayers," Rauner said.

And the governor had a warning for suburban and downstate lawmakers who continue to support Speaker Madigan.

"They take money from the Chicago political machine. They vote for the speaker to stay in power, and it's breaking our state," Rauner said.

On the pension reform bill misunderstanding, a Rauner spokesman wrote that administration lawyers spent weeks negotiating with President Cullerton's staff.

The senate and house go back into session next week in Springfield.

Related Topics:
politicsbudgetpensionsIllinoisSpringfieldChicago - Downtown
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