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Quinn Asks Madigan, Cullerton To Merge Pension Reform Plans

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Updated 06/10/13 – 1:57 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – After meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn for more than an hour and a half, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton seemed friendly, but not much closer to resolving their differences over pension reform.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the governor urged the legislative leaders to pass legislation that includes Madigan’s pension reform plan, as well as Cullerton’s competing plan, in case Madigan’s plan proves unconstitutional.

The governor referenced the Chicago Blackhawks’ clinching win in the Western Conference Finals as a metaphor for what he wants from the legislative leaders.

“One of the greatest hockey games ever played, and I saw Jonathan Toews assist Patrick Kane, who scored the winning goal,” Quinn said. “That’s the kind of teamwork that we need in Illinois. The Blackhawks have shown the way.”

The governor has scheduled a special session of the Illinois General Assembly on June 19 to address pension reform, but Madigan would not promise to call Quinn’s suggested hybrid legislation for a vote in the Illinois House.

“The best pension bill passed so far, the one that does the most cost savings, is the House bill,” Madigan said.

The speaker expressed concern the governor’s proposal would be too complicated.

Cullerton said he’ll proceed, anyway.

“What he’s saying is we have to go back to the Senate and call a version of both,” he said. “As you know, there’s a big argument about the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1 (Madigan’s plan), so we put them both in the same bill, and we make Senate Bill 1, as amended, the primary bill.”

Lawmakers adjourned their spring session at the end of May without approving a plan for comprehensive reform of the state’s public employee pension systems.

A plan backed by Madigan was soundly defeated in the Illinois Senate, while a plan backed by Cullerton never got a vote in the Illinois House.

Quinn, Cullerton and Madigan are now seeking to find some common ground between the two plans. While Madigan’s plan would save more money on pension costs, Cullerton’s plan is more likely to pass constitutional muster.

Quinn said Cullerton and Madigan can put an acceptable bill on his desk if they want.

The governor had wanted to meet with Madigan and Cullerton to discuss pension reform last week, but Madigan was unavailable. After meeting with Cullerton last Tuesday, Quinn seemed to chide Madigan for not having a cell phone to call into the meeting, but a Madigan spokesman said the governor knew beforehand Madigan wasn’t available.

Going into Monday’s meeting, Madigan jokingly asked a reporter, “Can I use your cell phone?”

After lawmakers failed to approve a pension reform plan by the end of the spring session in May, two credit rating agencies downgraded the state’s bond rating, which already had been the lowest in the nation.