Illinois lawmakers could take up pension fix in December

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 13, 2013 6:53 PM
Illinois lawmakers could take up pension fix in December

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois' most powerful legislative leader has told members to be prepared to return to the state capitol as soon as December 3, a notice that could signal an impending vote on pension reform after weeks of closed-door meetings, spokespersons for legislative leaders said.

A spokesman for Michael Madigan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said on Wednesday that members were advised they could meet next month.

"The (legislative) leaders met today and felt they continue to make progress on pension reform," said Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman.

Senate President John Cullerton plans to survey his members for session scheduling purposes in the wake of productive meetings among the leaders, said Rikeesha Phelon, his spokeswoman.

The Democrat-controlled legislature ended its last scheduled session of 2013 on November 7 without taking up pension reform. Legislative leaders began to meet on pensions after a special bipartisan legislative panel created in June failed to agree upon a plan in time for the fall session.

The leaders have been seeking ways to boost a projected 30-year savings of about $138 billion eyed by the panel to at least a reported $150 billion. The lawmakers' talks have focused 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.

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Continued inaction on dealing with a $100 billion unfunded pension liability that is squeezing out funding for core state services such as education has led to credit downgrades that have left Illinois with the lowest ratings among U.S. states.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)