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Cullerton Hopes To Tackle State’s Pension Liabilities

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State Senate President John Cullerton

State Senate President John Cullerton (Credit: CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) wants to tackle the state’s largest financial burden – unfunded pension liabilities – during the upcoming spring legislative session.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, during a meeting with reporters at his state Capitol office, Cullerton said there has not been enough movement on pension reform, and the Senate will likely take the reins. He maintains the House plan, which would require state employees to pay more to maintain benefits or pay the same and lose benefits, is unconstitutional.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

“I think we, in the Senate, can take the initiative to pass constitutional laws, not something that will be unconstitutional and only cost legal fees, and not do anything to strengthen the systems,” he said.

Cullerton has long said the House proposal is unconstitutional because it aims to diminish benefits for current employees, which isn’t allowed. The proposal barely passed out of committee during the fall Veto Session and hasn’t seen action since.

Cullerton says a compromise on gambling expansion is also likely. The House and Senate passed a bill during last year’s spring session that included new casino licenses and slot machines at horse racing tracks. Cullerton says the governor proposed a gambling bill similar to what lawmakers passed.

“It has the same principles that we passed,” he said. “That is, we wanted to have new casinos in areas where we border other states, and take advantage of the fact that they’re losing bettors to other states.”

Cullerton says Gov. Pat Quinn doesn’t want slot machines at tracks, but thinks tracks should get a larger portion of casino profits. The lawmaker-approved bill is still on hold, as the governor has vowed to veto it.

Cullerton says there’s not enough support to override a veto, should that happen.

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