Illinois pension deal announced

November 27, 2013

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan also confirmed that legislative leaders have reached a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

Steve Brown says he was told of the agreement following a leaders' meeting Wednesday. Brown says the speaker's staff is putting together an "explanatory memo" for lawmakers and will send details of the proposed legislation to them Friday.

The leaders have been working with a proposal developed over the summer and autumn by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers. The committee plan would save the state $160 billion over 30 years.

The state's pension crisis, deemed the nation's worst, comes after lawmakers have shorted or skipped payments to its public pension funds for decades. Both the House and Senate are being called back to meet in Springfield Dec. 3.

"We're inside the one and we're trying to get across the goal line," Madigan said.

"Obviously, we all need to talk to our members. But let us say having the leaders all four agree is a huge step in the right direction," said State Sen. Radogno.

The bill includes a reduction in cost-of-living increases for retirees with annual benefits over $30,000, guaranteed government contributions, 401ks for public workers and higher retirement ages.

"Everybody in this country is living longer, working longer and the same rule will apply to government workers," Madigan said.

The We Are One Public Employee Union Coalition issued a statement on the leaders' deal saying, "It's an unfair, unconstitutional scheme that undermines retirement security."

Illinois' $100 billion unfunded pension liability is blamed for the state's high unemployment and falling credit rating.

"Our rating with credit agencies is very important. We've been downgraded 12 times in the last two and a half years, and we've got to stop that," said State Rep. Durkin.

Before the General Assembly reconvenes next week, the leaders promised to lobby their respective caucuses. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton was the only leader who would not stop for an interview after the meeting. Later, a spokesman said Cullerton supported the agreement and would lobby his caucus on its behalf.

The executive director of Local Union 31 said he rejects the proposed bill, calling it a rehash of a similar bill.

"It's unfair and unconstitutional; they put it together behind closed doors without input from anyone, from hundreds of thousands of employees," said Henry Bayer, AFSCME Local Union 31.

Bayer says they offered an alternative bill that passed in the Senate, but a vote was not allowed in the House of Representatives.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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