Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Governor Calls Special Session Without Pension Deal
Gov. Pat Quinn has called the General Assembly back into session to address pension reform, but legislative leaders are no closer to reaching an agreement yet. Quinn announced Monday that lawmakers would be required to return to Springfield on Aug. 17. The Illinois House was already scheduled to be in session that day to vote whether to eject Rep. Derrick Smith from its ranks for allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for helping a business get a state grant.
Quinn called on lawmakers to pass pension reform legislation this year, but negotiations fell apart in the final days of the regular spring session. Democrats argued that downstate and suburban schools, state universities and community colleges should pick up more of the cost of their employees’ retirement benefits. Chicago schools already pay most of their employee retirement benefits. Democrats argue that because districts are setting the pay upon which benefits are based, they should not be able to pass the pension bill off to the state. But Republicans said that shifting the costs to local districts when state funding to schools is also being cut would lead to layoffs and local property tax increases.
Talks among the four legislative leaders reached a standstill earlier this summer when no agreement on the issue was found, and it would appear that nothing has changed since those negotiations stalled out. “I’m not aware that there’s been any more progress in terms of conversation between leaders,” said Northbrook Democratic Rep. Elaine Nekritz, who was the representative for the House Democrats on a pension reform working group. When asked whether leaders were any closer to reaching an agreement, Steve Brown, spokesperson for House Speaker Michael Madigan said, “I’m not aware of anything.”
Meanwhile, Senate President John Cullerton is urging Quinn to call off the special session. He has volunteered to call back his members on Aug. 17th in order to cut costs associated with a special session. “I share the governor's interest in resolving the lingering pension issues, but it makes no sense to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars when there is an easy, no-cost alternative,” Cullerton said in a prepared statement. He estimates that the cost of one day of special session would be about $40,000. If the Senate returns voluntarily, some travel costs would not be covered by taxpayers.
You can read Jamey's full report at: http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/quinn-calls-special-session-with-no.html