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Treasurer Encouraged By State Budget Talks

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Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said Tuesday that he’s encouraged by the atmosphere around the Capitol this year as budget negotiations heat up.

But Rutherford also cautioned that more issues, such as workers compensation and pension reform, must still be addressed.

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Rutherford said he can’t remember a time when House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) have worked together so cooperatively.

“I see them when they’re talking through an agreement on what they envision the revenue projections to be, an agreement in regards to doing something to the public pension programs,” Rutherford said. “I see that as a positive sign.”

Rutherford said any pension reforms would have to change benefits for new state employees. But he believes it is constitutional to alter benefits for current employees, if they’re given a choice in a two-tiered system, but any benefits received before a new law takes effect would be untouchable.

He would call for a new pension system to be litigated immediately, up to the Supreme Court if necessary, so any future constitutional challenges would be quashed.

Rutherford said he’s had several positive budget conversations with the governor, and he said he won’t be an automatic “no” just because he’s from a different political party. The treasurer’s approval, along with that of Illinois State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, would be required for certain short-term borrowing measures.

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