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updated: 12/27/2012 4:23 PM

Does shortened schedule hurt pension-cutting effort?

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  • Illinois State Reps. Daniel Biss and Elaine Nekritz talk about pension reform with the Daily Herald Editorial Board earlier this month.

      Illinois State Reps. Daniel Biss and Elaine Nekritz talk about pension reform with the Daily Herald Editorial Board earlier this month.
    Daily Herald file photo by Jeff Knox/jknox@dailyhe


SPRINGFIELD -- The cancellation of some of state lawmakers' upcoming meeting dates could hurt last-minute attempts to get the state's retirement costs under control.

But top Democrats pushing to cut teachers' and state workers' pension benefits say they're still hopeful a proposal could be approved before new lawmakers take office Jan. 9.

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The new schedule would appear to give the Illinois Senate just one day to consider a complex proposal on Jan. 8, and that's if the Illinois House can approve one in the two days prior.

"I understand that it's tight," said state Rep. Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat who's helping lead a push in the coming weeks.

Biss said a recent analysis showing that his proposal could save the state as much as $2 billion next year alone could spur lawmakers to act, despite the tight timetable.

"Everyone I've talked to has been pretty pleased with those (numbers)," Biss said.

Lawmakers are trying to get their retirement costs in check as they continue to crowd out spending on other priorities such as schools and care for the disabled.

But union leaders say their members didn't cause the state's financial problems and shouldn't be punished. They've threatened a lawsuit if a plan like Biss', which cuts retirees' benefits and raises the retirement age, is approved.

Still, Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday echoed Biss' optimism for a deal. He said bond rating agencies are poised to downgrade Illinois once again if nothing happens. And that move could make borrowing money to build roads and bridges in the future more expensive.

"We want to keep building things in Illinois," Quinn said.

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