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Illinois House to convene next week on pensions

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(AP file photo)
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, listens to lawmakers during a veto session Nov. 7 in Springfield.

CHICAGO – Illinois House lawmakers are expected to gather in Springfield next week to approve a possible solution to the state's roughly $100 billion pension crisis.

Both the House and Senate had tentatively set aside time next week to meet. On Monday, House Speaker Michael Madigan's chief of staff emailed representatives, telling them to be at the Capitol on Dec. 3, at 11 a.m.

"The House would expect this to be a one day session," Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes wrote in the email.

Senate President John Cullerton's spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said senators still have Dec. 3-4 marked on the books, though there's been no confirmation as legislative leaders are expected to continue negotiations this week.

The leaders haven't given many details of their talks but have said there's been movement.

Illinois has the worst-funded public pension system of any state, largely because lawmakers either skipped or shorted payments. Pensions have been Gov. Pat Quinn's top priority for nearly two years, but there's been little progress despite previous special sessions and other attempts.

Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Quinn was "encouraged" with prospects of a special session and a "comprehensive" solution being sent to his desk.

"There is more work to do," she said in an emailed statement.

Madigan, Cullerton, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno talked in a conference call last week on a proposal that could save Illinois roughly $150 billion over the next three decades. The plan comes from guidelines developed by a bipartisan pension panel in pervious months. That proposal would reduce employee contributions and replaced retirees' 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living increase with one that's half the inflation rate, among other things.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the speaker continued discussions with leaders over the weekend.

"He indicated there was continued progress," Brown said in an email. He declined to elaborate.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

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