In a step toward patching Illinois’ pension deficit, state lawmakers created a conference committee today that will try to deal with the financial mess.
For the Democrats: Senators Dan Biss, Linda Holmes, Kwame Raoul and Representatives Elaine Nekritz, Arthur Turner, and Mike Zalewski.
For the GOP: Senators Bill Brady, and Matt Murphy and Representatives Darlene Senger and Jil Tracy.
Governor Pat Quinn was unable to secure enough votes in the Senate to pass a House pension plan backed by both Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Lawmakers have been trying to fix the state`s colossal pension plan which is growing like Jack`s Beanstalk. Unable to reach a consensus for the past two years, they now say they are closer than ever to working out the details on a patchwork plan that would not exactly fix the problem, but would at least stop the bleeding long enough for a real cure to be found.
Lawmakers in Springfield have been called back into session because they know pension reform is critically needed so the state can meet its financial obligations. But drawing up new pension guidelines is tricky because any redesigned measures have to meet constitutional rules, or the courts will kick them back.
Currently the debt is just over $100 billion. With $100 billion you could buy Boeing Aircraft Company and Kraft Foods, two giants of industry, and still have a lot of money left over.
The interest on the debt is calculated to be growing $1 milllion a day. At that rate the debt will soon be so large that it could never be paid off and the state would have to default.
That kind of crushing debt has caused Wall Street to lower the state`s bond rating from AAA to AA to A and now A-. That low rating costs the state more money and higher interest rates to borrow funds to do business.
It is hoped that lawmakers will be able to decide on two competing proposals — one by Senate President John Cullerton or the other by House Speaker Michael Madigan — or a combined version of the two.
That is what lawmakers are there to do at a cost of $40,000 a day.
Republicans have also offered a plan that they say will fix the problem. But without sufficient votes in Springfield, no matter how good the plan is, it does not stand a chance of passing.