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Madigan rewrites Senate pension plan, deepens standoff with Cullerton

Updated: June 12, 2013 4:16PM

SPRINGFIELD-House Speaker Michael Madigan moved Wednesday to gut a union-backed, pension-reform plan favored by Senate President John Cullerton, replacing its language with the same blueprint that already passed the House and was voted down overwhelmingly by the Senate.
Madigan (D-Chicago) filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2404 and scheduled a hearing on the plan Tuesday, one day before Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered state lawmakers to return to Springfield to take another stab at getting a pension bill to his desk.
Madigan’s move further underscores the deepening deadlock between the two legislative chambers and foreshadows a strong likelihood that the special legislative session Quinn has called will be another exercise in futility in striking a pension deal.
“The intent is to continue to be supportive, as the speaker said at the meeting Monday, of the proposal that has the most savings,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Brown would not say whether this legislation, once it passes out of the House Personnel & Pensions Committee Tuesday, would be the only matter the House takes up during the special session Wednesday.
“I don’t do predictions,” Brown said.
The Madigan-backed plan imposes unilateral pension rollbacks on members of four state retirement systems, scaling back the compounding, annual 3-percent cost-of-living increase retirees get, increasing the retirement age and hiking employee premiums.
The plan is projected to trim $21 billion off the nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability pricetag the state faces and reduce overall state payments to the pension systems by $187 billion over the next 30 years.
The Senate rejected that approach on May 30 in a 16-42 roll call. Thirty votes were necessary for the legislation to have passed and to have gone on to Quinn.
The alternative Cullerton and the public-sector unions, including AFSCME Council 31, crafted would give retirees a series of choices in which they could opt to reduce or delay their annual cost-of-living increases in exchange for keeping state-subsidized health insurance.
The measure, which has 23 House Democratic co-sponsors, flew out of the Senate in early May by a 40-16 vote.
The We Are One Illinois coalition of unions estimated Senate Bill 2404, in its original form, would quickly trim between $6 billion and $9 billion off the state’s nearly $100 billion unfunded liability shortfall. It would also immediately account for up to $26 billion in reduced health-care costs for the state, the unions estimated.
Over the next three decades, it would save $46 billion in state payments for pensions and $88 billion for health care, the unions said.
After Monday’s pension summit between Quinn, Madigan and Cullerton, the governor and Senate president proposed linking the House and Senate plans, an idea in which Madigan showed no interest.

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