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Madigan Enlists Nekritz To Negotiate With Cullerton On Pensions

Illinois State Capitol

Illinois State Capitol buillding in Springfield (AP Photo)

dellimore250 Craig Dellimore
Craig Dellimore, political editor for WBBM, joined the station in 1983...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan might not be in touch with Gov. Pat Quinn, but there might be some behind-the-scenes work ahead to resolve the state’s pension reform impasse before a special session of the General Assembly on June 19.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Madigan has asked state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) to work with Senate President John Cullerton’s office to try to work out a compromise on the two leaders’ competing pension reform plans.

Nekritz has been Madigan’s point person in previous pension talks before the General Assembly’s spring session adjourned last week.

Last Friday, lawmakers adjourned their spring session after failing to reach an agreement on a plan to overhaul the state’s employee pension systems, which have a combined unfunded liability of nearly $100 million.

A plan backed by Madigan was overwhelmingly rejected by the Illinois Senate, while a competing measure backed by Cullerton was never called for a vote in the Illinois House.

Madigan’s plan would unilaterally cut pension benefits, and require state universities to pick up their own retirement costs. Cullerton’s plan would give state workers a set of choices regarding retiree health care and cost-of-living increases in retirement benefits, and has been backed by the state’s labor unions.

Madigan’s plan would save more money on pension costs, but Cullerton’s plan is widely viewed as more likely to be upheld as constitutional.

Nekritz said she hasn’t talked with anyone in Cullerton’s office yet, but plans to.

Madigan skipped a meeting with Quinn and Cullerton earlier this week. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the governor’s office knew the speaker was unavailable beforehand, even though Quinn later seemed to chide the speaker for not having a cell phone to call in.

Quinn has since called a special session for June 19 to deal with pension reform, which left some lawmakers quietly questioning what good it would do if there is no agreement on pensions beforehand.

Passing pension reform in the special session would be even harder to accomplish, since any legislation would need a three-fifths majority vote to take effect immediately. Any legislation approved by a simple majority could not take effect until next June.