Speaker Downplays Differences With Senate President Over Pensions

The Speaker of the House is downplaying differences with his Senate counterpart over how to change the state employee pension system. The dust-up was over legislation affecting an obscure unit of local government in Chicago. Brian Mackey has more:

[mp3 – 0:56 – 0.9 MB]

The legislation would change the pension plan for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, requiring both workers and the District to pay more into their pension fund.

When the measure came before the House in March, Democratic Speaker Mike Madigan praised it as a model for changing state employee pensions. But Senate President John Cullerton, also a Democrat, tried to change the legislation — using it as a model that fits his vision for overhauling the state’s pension plans. Cullerton soon backtracked and accepted the House plan as-is.

Several news reports highlighted the differences. But Madigan was diplomatic.

MADIGAN: “I don’t know that Cullerton took that much of a different approach.”

The speaker says he’s keeping an open mind.

MADIGAN: “I wouldn’t get uptight about the opinions unless of course you want to run a story that there’s a big conflict. If you want to do that, well you’re going to do what you’re going to do.”

Despite what Madigan says, the legal differences between the approaches are central to the debate over what Illinois can and cannot do as leaders look to cut the cost of retiree benefits.

I’m Brian Mackey.

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