Illinois to miss July 9 deadline for pension fix -legislator

CHICAGO, July 3 Wed Jul 3, 2013 4:51pm EDT

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CHICAGO, July 3 (Reuters) - An Illinois legislative committee charged with devising a compromise plan to rein in the state's huge unfunded public pension liability will not meet a July 9 deadline set by Governor Pat Quinn, the committee's chairman said on Wednesday.

State Senator Kwame Raoul, who heads the 10-member, bipartisan conference committee, said actuarial studies of various proposals, including recent ones submitted by Quinn, will take more time.

"It's not as easy as flipping a switch and this thing is over and we have a consensus and we can put something to the General Assembly for a vote," Raoul told reporters following the committee's second public meeting.

He also said Quinn's office had just delivered his own pension reform plan to committee members. He offered no details, and Raoul said Quinn has asked for an actuarial appraisal of savings that might result from that plan.

Brooke Anderson, the governor's spokeswoman, would say only that the committee had been provided with all the data and information it needed to fix the problem.

After the morning meeting, the conference committee split in half in order to meet privately without violating Illinois' open meeting law. The entire committee is scheduled to meet again on Monday in the state capitol.

The governor is sticking with a July 9 deadline, by which he has asked the legislature to deliver a pension reform plan for his signature, according to Anderson. "This is an emergency," she said. "Every day legislators come up with another excuse on why they can't get their job done is another day that taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars."

She declined to comment on what the governor would do if the deadline were missed.

At the two meetings since the conference committee was formed on June 19, the panel has heard from unions, business groups, state universities and others on how to tackle Illinois' nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability.

It was unclear how the committee would deal with the problem, given strong protections in the Illinois Constitution for retirement benefits. The Democrat-controlled legislature reached an impasse during its spring session, which ended May 31, after the House speaker and Senate president supported disparate approaches to pension reform.

The continued inability of Illinois lawmakers to fix the worst-funded state retirement system, along with a structural budget deficit, have combined to pull the state's bond ratings down the credit scale to the lowest levels among U.S. states.

Ballooning annual payments for the five pension funds are squeezing out funding for core state services like education and health care.

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Comments (2)
lpshaw wrote:
This is great news for public employees. The governor has added yet another (probably unconstitutional) plan to muddy the waters. At this rate, we may have another year or two before we have to worry about having our pensions slashed, in violation of contract law, the Illinois Constitution and common decency.

Jul 04, 2013 9:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ed1710 wrote:
Pension reform has already taken place, new employees are working under a new contractual agreement. What the politicians are trying to do is pay off the debt THEY incurred, and the general public which has benefited from this (State bills paid at that time with money that contractually should have gone into the pension funds). This isn’t really about pension reform, it’s about paying off the politicians debt by taking money from public employees who have had about 10% taken out of their paychecks whether they wanted it taken out of not for several decades. The majority of the public only understands what is being fed to them so I don’t blame them for not completely understanding, blame the politicians who misused the funds they had control over. The government workers have done NOTHING wrong.

Jul 05, 2013 12:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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