Illinois lawmakers to tackle state pension crisis next week

October 29, 2013

The Illinois General Assembly will have another chance next week to deal with its worst-in-the-nation fiscal crisis, the 800-pound gorilla trailing state officials everywhere they go.

It was another groundbreaking for Governor Pat Quinn-- this time to begin the long-awaited O'Hare Western Access Toll Road.

"That's really why we're here today on a historic occasion," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

But minutes later the sobering reality: there is still no deal among lawmakers to resolve the state's $100 billion unfunded pension debt.

"Next week is an opportunity for the legislature to get a bill, pass a bill so I can sign it into law," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

"Next week, we got three days and I don't anticipate yet again that much being accomplished," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, minority leader.

Lawmakers return to Springfield November 5th, 6th and 7th. Their 10-member House-Senate Pension Reform Conference Committee formed last June still has not recommended a bill.

"I look forward to seeing a resolution come through and a bill come through next week when we get down there," said State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park).

"I'm quickly losing faith that will actually happen," said Madeleine Doubek, Reboot Illinois.

Doubek-- who runs the Reboot Illinois website-- blames the inaction on public sector union pressure on majority democrats and election year politics.

"I'm pretty grim about the prospects for getting something done before the next primary which is in March of next year," said Doubek.

"I said earlier this year, I'm not taking a paycheck until we get this job done," said Gov. Quinn.

Leader Durkin expects Quinn to miss several more paychecks.

"We can come back sometime before the first of the year or come back at the beginning of the year. I want to make sure we do it once, we do it right," said Durkin.

But Doubek says the people losing the most money are Illinois taxpayers.

"Every day we go without a solution, we lose $5 million," said Doubek.

If the pension crisis extends into next year, it could have a disastrous effect on the Chicago city budget, where retiree costs will skyrocket. The mayor has predicted a massive tax increase for city homeowners.

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