Lawmakers push off pension talks for 5 more weeks
The debate over teacher and state worker retirements will go at least deep into summer as a meeting among top lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday ended with no deal on how to address the state's $83 billion in pension debt.
The Democratic governor said the sides won't meet again for another five weeks as Republicans continue to oppose a proposal that would cost suburban school districts millions of dollars by having them pay for teachers' future retirement costs. Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan want to shift costs.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno told the Daily Herald editorial board last month that before any shifts in pension costs, the state should alter an education funding system that sends more money to Chicago per student than elsewhere in the state.
So now, Quinn's office for the next five weeks will study various school funding proposals in an effort to get Republicans on board a pension plan.
Still, Quinn told reporters he hopes lawmakers will "act with dispatch" after that.
Radogno spokeswoman Patty Schuh said they'll listen to any new plan but argued lawmakers should just go forward with an existing plan to cut teacher and employee retirement benefits, not wait five weeks to keep studying cost shift plans.
"In the meantime, we could be doing pension reform," Radogno said.
Also in the meantime, the state's pension debt will continue to grow by nearly $13 million per day, Quinn says.
Just this week, a Pew Center on the States study on retirement plans across the country said Illinois' pension funds were in by far the worst shape in the nation.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.