--There is no showdown. This is a political sideshow.
If Madigan really wanted to reform the Illinois pension System, it would get done.
The longer the system stays screwed up, the longer he and the rest of the polidiots in Springfield can make money from their donors and their inside private deals.
If there was any real concern for the tax payers in Springfield this would have been done instead of raising our taxes 67% three years ago.--
Story at Chicago Tribune
By Ray Long
Chicago Tribune reporter
7:17 AM CDT
May 9, 2013
The pension deal cut by Senate President John Cullerton and state employee unions moved a step closer Wednesday to a collision course with a proposal backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Cullerton's Democratic majority delivered a 10-5, party-line committee vote that set up a Thursday debate in the full Senate. The plan advanced despite the protests of a retired teacher group that declared it unconstitutional because it would reduce benefits and Republican complaints that the deal doesn't save enough money. The Senate plan is projected to save about a third of the House plan's estimated $150 billion.
At the heart of the legal debate is how to get around what has long been seen as a state constitutional guarantee that pensions cannot be impaired or diminished. But it's the political debate that ultimately may make the difference between what, if any, measure goes to Gov. Pat Quinn to overhaul the pensions of rank-and-file state workers, downstate and suburban teachers, lawmakers and university employees.
The Democratic governor has showered praise on a Madigan plan passed last week that raises retirement ages, requires workers to kick in 2 percent more from their paychecks and scales back the automatic 3 percent annual compounded increases for retirement checks.
But Quinn also finds himself walking a line between making sure he gets at least some form of pension reform passed — his No. 1 priority in the spring session — and ensuring he doesn't upend any momentum toward a resolution as the legislature speeds toward a May 31 adjournment.
Cullerton is exerting his full political muscle behind a legal theory that state worker pensions can be pared back if employees and retirees are given options. His position rests on the idea that the choice fulfills the need to have a contractual relationship between the state and its retirees to stay within the confines of the constitution.
"This is the only way around it," the Northwest Side Democrat told the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.
But the Illinois Retired Teachers Association strongly disagreed that there is a way around the constitution.
"A choice that is kind of like 'Either jump off a cliff or I'll shoot you' is not really a very good choice," said Bob Pinkerton, the group's vice president. He said Cullerton's legislation does not provide "any choice that is beneficial" to the group's 35,000 retirees.
Cullerton's proposal offers employees and retirees choices, such as keeping annual 3 percent compounded cost-of-living increase on pensions in exchange for giving up access to health insurance.
Republican Sen. Matt Murphy urged Cullerton to take up the Madigan bill "so we can put this behind us" rather than pass a plan that would cause lawmakers to return to the topic repeatedly to patch up pensions.
"There's a little bit of a 'Groundhog Day' component to this because I just don't think this solves the problem and saves enough money," said Murphy, of Palatine. "I think it invites us to have to be back here far too soon to have to face this again."
Illinois has a pension debt approaching $100 billion. Madigan's bill aims to fully fund the pensions in 30 years, and Cullerton estimates his would fund the systems at 90 percent.
But union leaders testified in favor of the Cullerton bill. Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, who leads a coalition of state worker unions, said the bill represented "shared sacrifice" and the group's "bottom-line agreement."
Madigan, the Southwest Side Democrat, predicted his bill would pass the Senate and get upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court.