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Madigan plans new vote on pension plan

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 3:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:06 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is planning a fresh vote on his plan to overhaul the public-employee pension system, despite a request by the governor for compromise with the Senate.

Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, filed legislation Wednesday identical to a bill the House approved last month that failed by a wide margin in the Senate.

It doesn’t mention any inclusion of a rival proposal by Senate President John Cullerton, as requested by Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday as a compromise way to move forward on fixing the state’s nearly $100 billion shortfall in funding employee pensions. Quinn has called a special session in Springfield for next week to address the issue.

The continued impasse between the two leading lawmakers begs the question of whether it’s possible to reach a compromise by next week.

Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, said Wednesday that the hybrid proposal sought by Quinn was “unlikely to pass” so the speaker is still pushing his own proposal.

“I think he was pretty direct about the proposal that he thinks would get the job done,” Brown said.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said that the Senate president was “committed to advancing” the dual proposal supported by Quinn. Phelon was speculative about pension reform being approved next week.

“At this point there is no clear indication that a resolution will be reached by next week since the Speaker has made no commitment to call Cullerton’s pension plan or a compromise bill,” Phelon said.

Madigan’s plan would unilaterally impose pension changes on state workers and raise the retirement age, by most accounts saving the state the most money of any proposal. Cullerton’s plan would give state workers choices over what benefits to receive in retirement, which he contends would give it a better chance of surviving a court challenge.

Quinn proposed passing both in a single bill, essentially making Cullerton’s proposal a backup plan in case Madigan’s solution is thrown out in court. But Madigan suggested it was too complicated and called on Quinn to persuade the Senate to approve the House supported option.

The one change in the new version of Madigan’s plan is that its implementation would be delayed until June 2014, which means it can now be approved with fewer votes. Madigan’s legislation will be presented at a House committee meeting Tuesday, the day before the full Legislature convenes.

Illinois’ five public employee retirement systems are $97 billion short of what’s needed to pay benefits that were promised to workers and retirees. The shortfall is due largely to years of the Legislature voting to skip or short the state’s payments.

Republican leaders, as well as the governor, have blasted Cullerton and Madigan for failing to come to an agreement.

Brooke Anderson, spokeswoman for the governor, noted in an e-mail to the Associated Press that the governor will continue to meet with lawmakers “forcing this issue until the leaders do their job.”She said governor plans to meet with Madigan and Cullerton, as well as House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno later this week on the issue.

“The reality remains that pension reform will not be law in Illinois until the Speaker of the House and Senate President work together in good faith to send the governor a bill. They came together for a pension holiday for Chicago - they can come together for pension reform for the people of Illinois,” Anderson said. “The Speaker and the Senate President have never failed to put their priorities on the governor’s desk in 30 years.”

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