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Is A Pension Reform Deal Near In Springfield?

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 31, 2012 2:40PM

There's been some drama happening downstate the past day or so. Hell froze over, Michael Madigan blinked and the state may be close to a pension reform deal.

At the behest of Gov. Pat Quinn, who didn't want the current legislative session to end without passing a pension reform bill, Madigan reversed course on a proposal to shift the responsibilities for teachers pensions from the state to local school districts and universities. House Republican leader Tom Cross vehemently opposed the proposal.

After speaking with Quinn and taking the proposal off the table, Madigan couldn't help but sound like a dick about it afterward.

“I had an interesting meeting this morning with Gov. Quinn and I was surprised the governor disagreed with me on the issue. He agrees with you. He agrees with the Republicans, and he thinks we ought to remove the shift of normal costs out of the bill.”

For much of yesterday's session the stalemate over who would be responsible for the teachers' pensions informed debate over other legislation—including the state budget—and may have contributed to State Rep. Mike Bost's Howard Beale moment. Cross and other opponents of the proposal said the shift of the burden to local school districts and universities, particularly downstate, would lead to significant property tax increases. Madigan said he will remove his sponsorship of the bill and make Cross the sponsor while a House committee will look at striking the cost shift language from the bill.

Quinn's other pension reforms are still on the table: a three percent increase in employee contributions to the pension fund; reducing cost-of-living adjustments to 3 percent or one-half of the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less; raising the retirement age for government workers from 55 to 67; and a lower cost-of-living increase if employees choose to keep their state-provided health care plans. Unions oppose the plan, but Quinn is optimistic the spring session will end with a resolution to the problem he said last month he was "put on this earth" to solve.