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Article posted: 5/16/2013 5:57 PM

Pension cost shift talks continue

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SPRINGFIELD -- House Speaker Michael Madigan said he'll be talking with school leaders over the next week about a plan to have suburban and downstate schools pay millions of dollars toward teachers' pension costs.

But Madigan strongly reiterated his desire to shift those costs from the state onto employers and presided over a hearing where state university and community college leaders expressed support of taking on their employees' retirement payments.

While tuition hikes and program cuts could result, Illinois Community College Trustees Association spokesman Tom Ryder said the extra costs wouldn't translate into higher property taxes for suburban residents because how much colleges can collect is already capped by law.

"There's not a whole lot of leeway there," Ryder said.

Suburban and downstate lawmakers have pushed back hard for more than a year against the idea of their local schools having to pay more, so it's unclear how Madigan will convince them to vote for it before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn May 31.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said pension benefit cuts pending before lawmakers could lower how much schools would eventually have to pay, maybe making a shift in costs more palatable for lawmakers.

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