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Time Running Out For Pension Reform Plan
It is an issue that has plagued the general assembly all year, but with new lawmakers poised to take their posts come Wednesday, it is a race against the clock: fixing the state's pension system.
“This is a crisis that needs to be dealt with right now," DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin, a Republican, said. “Regardless of party affiliation or regional representation speaks to the urgency of the matter and our collective willingness to work in the best interests of all Illinois taxpayers," Cronin said.
Illinois taxpayers will shoulder part of the $96 billion burden from unfunded public pensions if an agreement is not reached.
“But I think we're on the eve of collaboration, where people of good faith, both parties, Democrat and Republican, House and Senate, come together and do what has to be done for the common good," Gov. Pat Quinn said.
Coming together for the common good seems easier now after Speaker of the House Michael Madigan tabled a major squabbling point between party lines: shifting pension costs downstate for public school teachers to local school districts.
“Not everyone agrees with all the nuances," State Rep. Darlene Senger, a Republican for the 96th District, said. "We don't know all the numbers yet for the bills, but my gut is telling me this is moving it in a really significant direction in regards to getting this thing shored up once and for all."
The talks continue, but there are still issues like cost-of-living adjustments for employees and retirees and whether workers should be required to contribute more, all keeping a bill from Quinn's desk.
The Democratic governor is comparing the monstrous pension problem to that of the fiscal cliff.
“It was bipartisan in Washington the other night," Quinn said. "It's going to have to be bipartisan in Illinois in the next few days."
Meanwhile, Senate President John Cullerton is still pushing lawmakers to approve the scaled-down pension reform plan the Senate passed last spring.
AP contributed to this report.