Story Summary

Illinois Pension Reform

A pension deal worked out between Senate President John Cullerton and state employee unions was approved in committee, and now moves on to the full Senate.

A different pension proposal backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan recently passed the Illinois House of Representatives.

The state’s pension system is nearly $100 billion in debt.

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$160 billion in savings over the next 30 years – that’s what is on the table after Illinois lawmakers locked themselves in a room together this week. Republican and Democrat leaders have reached a compromise, we’re told, to begin fixing Illinois’ pension problem that simply has grown with each year.

As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about it.

“The president says a deal has been reached, and will continue to work in support of that deal,” said spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.

But people who learned of the closed-door meeting wonder if they are making a deal with the devil.

“This is stealing pensions from the people who earned them,” said Henry Bayer of AFSCME.

AFSCME pensions, along with those of other state employee union members, are at stake, and lawmakers who have been watching Illinois drown in pension debt are reportedly rewriting the plan that tens of thousands of state employees have been paying into for decades, including raising the age limit for retirement and tinkering with the cost of living adjustment. It currently goes up 3% a year.

Union members stand to lose the most. Yet they were not at the table when House Speaker Mike Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin drafted the Thanksgiving eve deal.

The We Are One Illinois Coalition of Unions representing state employees issued this statement: “Unions representing hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees were not included in the leaders` talks. If their new plan is in line with what`s been reported from earlier discussions, then it`s an unfair, unconstitutional scheme that undermines retirement security.”

“The key is to erase a $100 billion liability that’s hovering over our state’s economy, and hurts our state’s economy and hurts our jobs. And if we erase that liability, we’re going to help Illinois in our economy immeasurably and help our tax payers,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Other politicians are also pleased that a resolution was reached, like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who has been pointing fingers at Springfield when Springfield’s financial hurt was effecting Chicago. The chance of it passing at the capital when it comes up for a vote — pretty good, says Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson, even though it may not be an easy pill to swallow for some.

“You have lawmakers that represent university towns, you have lawmakers that represent towns with prisons in them, everybody’s got a teacher that they represent. I mean, this will be, for many, the hardest vote they’ve ever cast in the General Assembly,” Pearson said.

A long awaited vote expected to be cast in Springfield on December 3.

It appears that Illinois lawmakers have reached a deal on pension reform. Chicago Tribune political reporter Rick Pearson breaks it down.

State lawmakers are being called back to Springfield next week.

There’s a possibility of a compromise on overhauling Illinois’ pension system.

Michael Madigan’s Chief of Staff sent a letter telling house lawmakers to be back by Monday, December 3, for a session the next day.

There have been reports of progress, but no deal.

Senate leaders have tentatively scheduled to return on those same days in case a deal is reached.

Governor Quinn has lost another legal effort to keep withholding state lawmakers’ paychecks.

Thursday, a Cook County judge ruled Quinn had no legal right to cut off their pay to press his demand for a state pension reform bill.  Governor Quinn appealed, but an appellate court also ruled against him.

After the ruling, State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka had the checks electronically deposited to lawmakers’ accounts.

They’re getting all their back pay for August and September, plus interest.


A Cook County judge ruled that Governor Quinn had no legal right to cut off the paychecks of state lawmakers, to press his demand for a state pension reform bill.

So the legislators will get all their back pay for August and September, plus interest.

And in fact, they already have it.

State comptroller Judy Baar Topinka ordered the checks electronically deposited to the lawmakers’ accounts overnight.

Quinn insists he acted legally.

Quinn says he’ll continue to refuse his paychecks until a pension reform bill is on his desk.

A judge ordered the state to issue paychecks to legislators after a long debate involving politicians, pensions and public perception.

Judge Neil Cohen ordered that the state start payroll again and make up for two past missed paychecks. The lawsuit was filed by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate president John Cullerton

One week after a judge heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of halting political paychecks to get elected officials to prioritize ballooning pension problems in Illinois, Quinn is refusing to accept defeat.

Vowing to appeal the judge’s decision, Gov Quinn called the pension problem the most critical challenge of our time. So he refuses to give up.

While other lawmakers could see deposits in their accounts as early as tomorrow, Quinn is holding out, no paycheck for him. the candidate for re-election wishes his colleagues would, too.

“I don’t think anyone should get paid and I am not taking a paycheck until this important priority is done,” he said tonight.

Stopping lawmakers’ pay in order to get politicians to pay attention to the state’s growing pension problem was viewed by many as a cheap, but perhaps effective election stunt by the governor.  But not everyone in Springfield agrees.

“Personally I get concerned about the precedent that this all sets,” Judy Baar Topinka said.  “That’s government by blackmail.”

Quinn’s lawyers back in court tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

Illinois lawmakers haven’t been paid in two months, thanks to Gov. Pat Quinn, and they will go one more week without a paycheck.

A Cook County judge today said he plans to rule by next Thursday on the lawsuit.

The governor has cut off paychecks until the legislature passes a pension reform plan.

House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton,  whom along with the governor are democrats,  challenged the pay issue in court.

Quinn says the state constitution allows him to veto lawmaker pay.

He also argues that taxpayers are on his side.

Illinois lawmakers filed a lawsuit last month when Governor Pat Quinn cut off their pay.

Today is the deadline for Quinn to respond to that lawsuit.Quinn

The governor stopped paying the legislators to protest their failure to pass a pension reform bill.

The lawsuit claims he doesn’t have that authority.

There’s been a lot of back and forth in Springfield over the proposals being put forth by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to possibly reduce the state pension.

The pension crisis remains unresolved in Illinois, but lawmakers are now open to looking at some new ideas, including both Madigan and Cullerton’s proposals, to address the issue.

The total amount of debt currently sits at over $100 billion.

A new outline would mean good and bad news for state workers who would be asked to pay 1 percent less into their retirement but instead of a 3 percent annual compounded raise, those bumps would be based on half of the consumer price index. If inflation remains at 3 percent, raises would only be 1.5 percent.

Another popular idea being considered, would have the state increase its pension payments each year to help cover passed obligations. Once that’s paid off, the state would then put that money directly into the pension, comparable to making advanced payments on a mortgage payment to reduce overall costs.

Off the table ideas include an option to force retirees to choose between health insurance or smaller pension payments and raising the retirement age. Details of the entire plan are limited, but it is estimated to save the state about $145 billion.

Cullerten’s plan is expected to save the state about $134 billion and Madigan’s is expected to save about $163 million. There were hopes that one of the packages or another reform package would come up for a vote in Springfield in October, but the prospect of that is not looking favorable.

WGN-TV writer Judith Ruiz-Branch contributed to this story

Governor Pat Quinn made a surprise appearance in a Cook County court today.

He’s being sued by state lawmakers for docking their pay until they address the state’s ballooning pension problems.

Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan argue the move violates the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch.

Quinn disagrees.

The Democratic legislative leaders’ attorneys have asked the judge for a preliminary injunction allowing lawmakers to get paid.

They’re also requesting interest on the lost pay to date.


No decisions were made today and the only agreement was on a schedule to present the case.

Oral arguments in the case are set for September 18, after which the judge will issue his decision.  But no timetable has been set for that.