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What Will The General Assembly Discuss in Friday’s Special Session?

Local state legislators expect pension reform to be discussed, but to what extent and whether any formal voting will take place remains unclear.

Members of Illinois’ General Assembly seem to agree on one aspect of what’s expected at Friday’s special session in Springfield called by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) will face expulsion by the Illinois House in a vote, after he was accused of taking a $7,000 bribe from a campaign worker in a sting operation.

But throngs of state employees, including teachers, are now down in Springfield protesting different aspects of pension reform, not Smith’s likely removal from office.

Quinn under claims to fix the pension problems facing the state, now totaling about $83 billion in unfunded liabilities among the various state employees. Local legislators, as the date approached, felt the chances of such a swift fix are slim to non-existent.

Rep. Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) said House Bill 1447 could possibly come up for a vote.

The bill, after amendments in spring, targets cost of living allowances for general assembly members and state employees who fall under the State Employees’ Retirement System. Instead of a cost of living increase of 3 percent that is compounded each year after retirement, recipients would either have to lose health insurance coverage to keep the 3 percent compounded raises, or get a rate that is half of inflation for the year (and no higher than 3 percent) with no compounding.

Results if the bill passes have been estimated at $30 billion saved over the course of about 30 years, but that’s only one possible outcome, Cunningham said.

“That would be the rosiest of the estimates,” Cunningham said. “But it still only gets us to a third of where we need to go.”

The Teachers’ Retirement System accounts for just over half of the total unfunded liabilities at about $43 billion. HB 1447 doesn’t include provisions for TRS.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (Lemont) said the uncertainty of what will happen on Friday doesn’t bode well for moving further with putting in actual reform.

“A discussion of cost shift is not pension reform,” Radogno said. “I’m willing to have that discussion, but I’m not willing to do it under the gun. It needs to include all systems and address all the issues.”

Rep. Charles Krezwick (D-Orland Park) said there’s no guarantee that any vote will happen Friday.

“My own feeling is we’ll probably do something tomorrow, but the entire issue won’t be dealt with until after the November election,” Krezwick said Thursday about Friday’s special session.

Calls and an email to Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) were not returned as of Thursday.

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martin finn August 17, 2012 at 02:02 PM
what will they discuss? Spending money they don't have, obscuring the spending in a dizzying garbled masterpiece, subsidizing irresponsible behaviors and cultures thereby promoting and sustaining them, organize programs pitting groups against one another. Its a tough job but someone has to do it.

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