May 30, 2013
By: Greg Hinz
The Illinois Senate this evening rejected a tough pension reform bill proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, raising a real question as to whether lawmakers will pass any changes before their scheduled adjournment tomorrow night.
The action came on a largely party-line 16-42 vote. Thirty votes were needed for approval.
Most Republicans and a few Democrats sided with Mr. Madigan, saying that only the combination of benefit cuts and higher payments in the speaker’s bill go far enough toward filling the state’s $100 billion in unfunded pension liability.
“It’s showtime,” declared Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont. Worker pensions are sopping up so much money now that they’re “freezing out every other priority we have,” she said.
But Democrats echoed the argument of Senate President John Cullerton that the Madigan bill is unconstitutional and that only a more modest plan he negotiated with worker unions will pass legal muster. The Madigan bill is “fatally flawed,” declared Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora. “It’s a bad bill. It’s a bill that takes away from the (workers and retirees) we made promises to.”
Mr. Cullerton’s bill is pending in the House. But Mr. Madigan has suggested strongly that he will not call it for a vote because it is inadequate. And unless he relents, the bill will remain in legislative limbo.
What happens now is uncertain, with the standoff between the Legislature’s top two Democrats continuing in full force.
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Copyright 2013 Crain Communications, Inc.