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updated: 1/7/2013 5:01 AM

Hearing on pensions plan set for Monday

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  • Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, testifies while Rep. Elaine Nekritz, of Northbrook, looks on during a hearing in May.

      Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, testifies while Rep. Elaine Nekritz, of Northbrook, looks on during a hearing in May.
    File photo

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- State Rep. Elaine Nekritz said Sunday she believes there is still time to get a pension deal done before a Wednesday deadline, and a hearing on one proposal she agreed to with House Republican Leader Tom Cross is set for Monday.

"I certainly, to my core, hope for a resolution to this," the Northbrook Democrat said. "As much as anybody, I hope to move on to different issues than this."

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Though a plan that would cut teachers' and state workers' retirement benefits is scheduled for a preliminary hearing before lawmakers Monday, the proposal could change before it's final.

"There is enough time to get it done," Nekritz said.

Supporters of cutting benefits are trying to hustle because when the next General Assembly, featuring about three dozen new lawmakers, is sworn in Jan. 9, all legislation resets and supporters have to start over.

But even if the Illinois House approves the legislation Monday, the Illinois Senate still hasn't even committed to being in Springfield Tuesday.

Senate President John Cullerton wants the House to approve cuts for state workers and lawmakers, leaving teachers alone for now.

With Republicans possibly getting on board a more sweeping plan, such a move might be getting more unlikely.

"They don't want to see the Senate bill done just because it's halfway there," state Rep. Darlene Senger, a Naperville Republican, said.

It would, among other things, prevent retired teachers and state workers from getting yearly benefit increases until they turn 67 years old, and those increases would be less generous than they are now.

In addition, workers would have to eventually pay 2 percentage points more of their paychecks toward their own retirements, and the state would make a legal guarantee to pay its share every year, too.

As Gov. Pat Quinn has touted starting in DuPage County last week, local school districts wouldn't have to pick up any more of teachers' pension costs -- a provision lauded by Republicans.

"I want to see details," said state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican. "But it's a very positive development."

Still, union leaders blasted the plan, citing the Illinois Constitution's statement that workers' pensions should not be "diminished."

"Illinois politicians are preparing to use unconstitutional schemes to ruin the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans while ignoring the state's revenue problem," reads a statement from the We are One Illinois coalition of union leaders. "If the General Assembly rams through last-minute legislation that violates the Illinois Constitution, we are prepared to sue to protect the hard-earned benefits of teachers, caregivers, corrections officers, university employees, and others."

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