CHICAGO, July 3 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