Pension Standoff Remains Heading Into Last Day Of Session

May 31, 2013

The Illinois Senate overwhelmingly rejected legislation on Thursday that would curtail government employees' and teachers' retirement benefits.

It raises the question of whether lawmakers will do anything to address Illinois' indebted retirement systems before they adjourn Friday night.

The pension-cutting legislation passed the House at the start of month.

But when it got a vote in the Senate yesterday, it didn't just fail - it plunged.  The Senate vote was 16 to 42.

That means a standoff between the House and Senate over what to do about Illinois' $100 billion dollars of pension debt remains.

Senate President John Cullerton says the House could end that stalemate by taking a vote on his preferred plan.

CULLERTON: "We've passed bills that have saved billions of dollars that are over in the House that never got called.  We called their bill over here."

But critics say Cullerton's method, in which workers take a lesser hit, doesn't save enough money.

Cullerton indicated there's a chance the Senate could consider one of three, very narrow pension measures -- with the idea it could serve as a test case.

It's expected any benefit change will be the subject of a lawsuit.

CULLERTON: "It is frustrating that we don't have a bill that would go to court, so that's one of the things we're taking into consideration."

But Gov. Pat Quinn says he wants "comprehensive reform," and is calling on the Senate to reconsider Thursday's vote.