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Illinois pension reform vote set for next week

SPRINGFIELD – State lawmakers will vote on reforms to trim public sector pension costs when they return to Springfield for a special session this month, but the legislation is limited in scope and does not include one of Gov. Pat Quinn's key proposals for addressing Illinois' most serious budget challenge.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, has decided to allow the vote on Aug. 17, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported Tuesday.

"The speaker has determined he would call it," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

Illinois faces at least $83 billion in unfunded pension liability, and credit rating agencies have threatened to lower the state's rating unless lawmakers ease the strain on the budget.

The House bill up for consideration does not address the thorny issue of shifting pension costs for public school teachers from the state to school districts.

Chicago school districts already shoulder those costs, and the Democratic governor wants the rest of the state to follow. Republicans have largely objected to the plan, claiming it will burden cash-strapped local schools and increase property taxes.

The bill, which already passed in the Senate, would only affect pensions in two of the state's five retirement systems: the State Employees Retirement System and the General Assembly Retirement System.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, has called on the House to pass the measure, arguing that even a limited pension-reform measure will send a reassuring message to the credit rating agencies.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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