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Legislative Leaders Reach Deal On Pension Reform

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Illinois House and Senate leaders emerging from two days of negotiations are saying “We have a deal.”

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine was there when the so-called 4 tops, the House and Senate, Democratic and Republican leaders emerged from their talks.
Levine reports that they say they’re almost there, and they’ll spend the holiday weekend lining up the votes for a measure that could pull Illinois back from the brink of financial disaster.

“We’ve been downgraded 12 times in the last years, this is gonna stop that,” said State Senator Jim Durkin.

Senate President John Cullerton, whose opposition blocked the last pension reform bill, snuck out a side door, though his spokesman cautioned that we shouldn’t read too much into that.


Speaking after a Thanksgiving luncheon for tornado victims in downstate Washington, Governor Quinn, sounded cautiously optimistic.

“I knew they were working hard to try to put together an agreement that could win a majority in both houses and get it on my desk. So this is an important moment in our state’s history,” said Quinn.

The compromise anticipates $160 billion in savings, resulting in fully funded pensions in 30 years.

Those already retired will see smaller cost of living increases. Current employees will see not only smaller increases but also a delay before they start. Younger employees will also be subject to an increase in the retirement age. Everyone will have pensionable salaries capped.

In return, current employees will get a 1 percent reduction in their pension contributions.

As expected, union leaders immediately attacked the compromise, which We Are One Illinois called “No compromise at all with those who earned and paid for their retirement benefits.”

Madigan anticipated that, and vowed to work hard to overcome it.

“We’re inside the one and we’re trying to get across the goal line. We wanna have a better record than the Bears in the redzone,” said Madigan.

Like the Bears, pension reform has had a history of false starts in Springfield. This time, it appears, the leaders are in synch on the snap count and ready for the kickoff of the special session on Tuesday.

Laurence Msall is the president of the Civic Federation, a non-partisan group that analyzes the financial condition of the state and the city.

“For all those who care about the state of Illinois, who care about critical services the state provides, it’s encouraging to know that the leaders are moving toward yet another deadline for pension reform – and hopefully this will be a real deadline that they’re able to meet,” said Msall.

Msall says the pension costs “are squeezing out or pushing out all other priorities of state government, whether it’s public safety, whether it’s infrastructure investment, education investment. There just isn’t enough money to maintain the pensions under the current system.”

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