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Little urgency, a lot of politicking in Illinois over deepening pension crisis (+video)

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Some state legislators are also skeptical that real action will happen June 19, the date the governor says he wants the General Assembly back in session.

“He tried that last year, and it didn’t work. I’d suggest he seriously, seriously consider the drawing board before he invites us back to Springfield. It’s a risky play for him unless he’s pretty sure he’s got a solid agreement and therefore some solid votes,” House majority leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D) told the Chicago Sun-Times Friday.

The paralysis reflects “the unwillingness” of state leaders to seriously confront reform, especially because that would mean disappointing or angering public-sector unions, says Lawrence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, an advocacy and research organization in Chicago

The legislature has not been able to reach a compromise on how to confront the pension crisis since it voted down two different plans offered by each of its majority leaders – House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) and Senate President John Cullerton (D).

Speaker Madigan’s plan would have raised the retirement age for public employees, required state workers to contribute more toward their retirement, and reduced cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees. Opposition to that plan was particularly strong from Teamsters union representatives working for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which represents about 2,000 workers and carries $1 billion in unfunded liability. 

The Senate bill “is more agreeable to unions,” Giertz says, because it offers workers the choice between the current system and Madigan’s proposal for a higher worker contribution rate. However, if workers choose the current system, any pay raise they receive won't be applied to their pensions.

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