UPDATE 1-Illinois' House to take up public pension reform on Dec. 3

Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:49pm EST

CHICAGO Nov 25 (Reuters) - The Illinois House of Representatives will hold a one-day session on Dec. 3 to take up changes to the state's woefully underfunded public pensions, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said on Monday.

The Illinois Senate has not yet made clear its plans, but a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton told Reuters in an email that discussions involving a potential change to cost-of-living increases to pensions for retired state workers are continuing.

Ron Holmes, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, said that there is no deal on pension reform "at this point," but he added that a meeting of legislative leaders on Tuesday "should prove further clarity on the schedule."

He also said that negotiations are focused on adjustments to retiree cost-of-living adjustments proposed by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

Steve Brown, the spokesman for the House Speaker, declined to provide details on the changes that may be proposed at the Dec. 3 session, which is scheduled for one day. Brown said the legislation is still being developed.

The state's legislative leaders have been seeking ways to boost a projected 30-year savings to $150 billion, up from about $138 billion eyed by a special legislative panel on pensions created in June.

Negotiations have centered on savings that could be achieved through changes to the current 3 percent compounded cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. One proposal would limit such adjustments to half the annual inflation rate, with some compounding of payment increases.

However, reforms aimed at reducing Illinois' $100 billion unfunded pension liability have remained elusive. The legislature ended its regular spring and fall sessions without passing a fix.

Madigan and Cullerton have backed competing reform proposals, with Madigan's plan taking a more aggressive approach to cost reductions.

Continued inaction on dealing with a pension problem that is squeezing out funding for core services such as education has led to credit downgrades that have left Illinois with the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states.

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