Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) is shown in this August file photo.
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:33AM
After hope for significant pension reform in this session of the General Assembly was almost gone, a breakthrough on Friday kindled a touch of optimism.
This being the Illinois Legislature, nothing ever is set in stone. But Gov. Pat Quinn and top legislative leaders met to negotiate on Saturday, and although the meeting didn’t produce a deal, Quinn has said he is confident he’ll have a bill to sign before the current legislative session ends at noon on Wednesday.
The breakthrough was a decision by House Speaker Mike Madigan to drop his insistence on a controversial plan to shift teacher pension costs from the state to suburban and Downstate school districts. That would save the state money, but it drew such stiff opposition that it threatened to torpedo the entire reform effort, and Madigan agreed to postpone that debate.
Although specifics likely will change through the weekend as talks continue, it appears likely a final reform package will include higher contributions by workers and lower cost-of-living adjustments. To satisfy unions, it also may include a guarantee the state will make its future pension payments, a responsibility it has often ignored in the past.
Illinois is drowning in $95 billion of unfunded pension debt. The goal of this plan is to fix that over the next 30 years. It’s time to get started.