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No High Hopes For Last-Ditch Hearing On Pension Reform

Illinois House Floor

House floor at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. (AP File Photo)

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Gov. Pat Quinn made  a last-ditch push for state lawmakers in Springfield to pass pension reform, but the effort failed Friday.

Lawmakers adjourned after making little, if any, progress, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports


In Springfield Friday morning, the so-called four tops – the House and Senate majority and minority leaders –were summoned to Gov. Pat Quinn’s office. It was a last-ditch attempt by Quinn to hammer out some kind of deal to reform the state’s five public employee pension funds.

They hope at least to start to chip away at an unfunded liability, which threatens to crowd out all other state spending on every program – including education.

But the Democrats will not vote for the reform plan unless it includes shifting teachers’ pension payments from the state to the suburban and downstate school districts that negotiated the generous benefits.

The Chicago Public Schools is the only school district in the state that currently pays the employer’s portion of teacher pensions through local tax dollars. All other public school districts rely on state funding to pay for employer contributions to teacher pensions.

But Republicans say changing that would involve tax increases in the suburbs and downstate.

“They want to raise our property taxes to help fix a broken pension system,” House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) told a crowd at the Illinois State Fair Thursday.

It’s that kind of rhetoric that frustrates advocates pushing pension reform.

“It’s unadulterated nonsense. Everybody talks a great game, they go nowhere,” Ty Fahner says.

But not even Quinn’s compromise attempt – spreading out the increases over 12 years – has been able to bring the two sides together.

The prospects for settlement and a deal during this one-day session called by Quinn on pension reform – at this point, anyway – appear dim.

Quinn called the Friday hearing after lawmakers failed to get a bill passed before the deadline of midnight on the morning of June 1. He said later in June that lawmakers’ inaction on pension reform was costing $12.6 million per day.