Legislature Forms Group Tasked With Finding Pension Fix

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn is giving legislators less than three weeks to come together on a pension overhaul. So far the formation of a rare “conference committee” is the only result of the special legislative session Quinn called to deal with the state’s pension problem.

At Quinn’s request, the legislature named 10 members to a committee to come up with a compromise on pensions, something leaders have not been able to do despite numerous private meetings. Quinn says they should finish the job by July 9th. But there’s nothing in Illinois law that gives him the power to set a deadline, and some lawmakers say every new proposal requires a lengthy analysis to figure out how much money might be saved. Quinn says that’s just an excuse.

QUINN: “Well they’ve had ample time to work on this issues. I’ve been working on this issue for the past coupe years – we’ve had many many different legislative work groups and sessions and meetings and press conferences and everybody’s really had a chance to study these issues.”

House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats from Chicago, have been at an impasse – each pushing their own pension solution.  Cullerton says he thinks the committee is a step in the right direction, but will it be the final push needed to pass a comprehensive pension fix?

CULLERTON: “No, not the fact that we have a conference committee. That was the governor’s request and just another way of getting to a vote for a bill.”

It’s been years since legislators have resorted to the political maneuver of conference committees. It’s not entirely clear how a committee of lawmakers will be able to come to an agreement when their leaders continue to have opposing views on solving the problem.

— Rachel Otwell

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