Talks on Illinois pension crisis end without deal

January 5, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The meeting lasted for about an hour and a half, and afterward the powerbrokers spoke in calm, even tones, but make no mistake, all sides are feeling the heat.

It was a rare Saturday meeting. Democratic and Republican leaders sat down with the governor, though no agreement was reached.

"I view this as a productive meeting," said House Speaker Michael Madigan. "A lot of good ideas suggested among the participants."

"Everyone had an opportunity to flesh out their positions a little bit more," said State Senator Christine Radogno. "We obviously still have a long ways to go."

But not a lot of time.

Lawmakers hope to pass meaningful pension reform before Wednesday when the newly-elected members of the general assembly are sworn in."

If they miss that deadline, the legislative process starts over.

"Putting this off, it doesn't do anybody any good," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross. "It's an uncomfortable conversation. It always has been. It's only going to get worse."

"Our bond ratings are going to go down the tubes if they don't do something in the next few weeks," said ABC7 political analyst Laura Washington. "They don't have months or years."

Hopes for a deal were revived on Friday when House Speaker Michael Madigan conceded on a key sticking point, a requirement that suburban and downstate school districts pay for their own teacher pensions, instead of relying on state funding.

Opponents said it would lead to higher property taxes outside Chicago.

The issue became a flash point.

"And I have to figure out how to vote for my people! Shame! You should be ashamed of yourselves!" said State Rep. Mike Bost.

With that cost issue off the table talks are now centered on benefit changes.

One proposal being discussed would.

"We're working to find that common ground and see what can be done," said Governor Quinn's spokesperson Brooke Anderson. "It's very urgent that we act."

"My recommendation is that we move beyond the differences and just find a bill that we can pass," Madigan said.

From here, the scene now shifts to Springfield where the House is set to convene on Sunday.

They say they plan to continue working up until the Wednesday deadline.

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