Illinois pensions

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Will be updated.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says legislative leaders have reached a deal to solve the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

Steve Brown says he was told of the agreement following a leaders meeting Wednesday.

Brown says the speaker's staff is putting together an "explanatory memo" for lawmakers and will send details of the proposed legislation to them Friday.

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The leaders of the Illinois House and Senate are filing a lawsuit challenging Gov. Pat Quinn's halting lawmaker pay over the state's pension gridlock. 

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton called Quinn's action  "purely political and unconstitutional." All three men are Democrats.

(Kristi Luther/St. Louis Public Radio)

On Monday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn paid a visit to the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in East St. Louis.

Quinn said the bridge will reduce congestion and pollution and praised the jobs the project has created. He also hopes the project nurtures a positive relationship between Missouri and Illinois.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Updated 11:55 a.m. with reporting by Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey.

Governor Pat Quinn Wednesday used his veto power to eliminate salaries for Illinois legislators. Quinn says until lawmakers fix the state's pension problem, they shouldn't get paid.

On Illinois' $100 billion unfunded pension liability Quinn has been setting deadlines for more than a year.

Until now, there haven't been any direct consequences for lawmakers when they've blown each of those deadlines.

Quinn changed that today in a big way.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn says he won't testify before a bipartisan pension panel Monday in Springfield.

The Chicago Democrat told reporters Sunday that staff from his budget office would attend. 

The committee tasked with finding a solution to the nearly $100 billion problem had invited Quinn to testify. 

The group was formed last month since lawmakers remained at odds over two reform plans. The committee held two public hearings in Chicago.  

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with pension problems for Illinois.

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A new report shows nearly a quarter of Illinois' state spending plan for next year will go toward pension payments. The Illinois State House and the State Senate have so far disagreed on the best way to address the worst-funded pension system in the country.

Laurence Msall is with the Civic Federation - a budget watchdog group. He says the state used to spend about 7 percent of its budget on retirement benefits. Now it's closer to 25 percent.

"It effectively means that all new revenue, in order to keep up with that growth, has to go into the pension system," Msall said.

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Updated 5:39 p.m. with reporting from Brian Mackey.

The Illinois House approved a massive overhaul of state-employee pension systems on Thursday. It's a development that's been more than a year in the making.

Earlier this year, there was a pension measure that had just a single "yes" vote. That makes what happened with this latest proposal significant.

Today's measure received 62 "yes" votes, 51 "no" votes and two voting present. Having received the constitutional majority, it passed.

State comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, shown in this state photo, died December 10, 2014 from complications of a stroke at the age of 70.
via Illinois Comptroller website

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says the ever-long list of vendors waiting on payments from the state means taxpayers have to pay interest and their money is being "flushed away."

That's according to a story posted online Sunday in the Rockford Register Star. The story is part of GateHouse newspapers' series on Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills.

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The Illinois Senate has passed a pension overhaul, but it only affects suburban and downstate teachers. It doesn't touch state employees' and university workers' retirement benefits.

The measure was approved by the Illinois Senate and forces teachers to choose between taking a reduced pension, or retaining access to state-backed health care upon retirement.

It took two tries, passing only after Democratic Senator Dave Koehler of Peoria switched his vote.

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Illinois’s ballooning pension costs coupled with dwindling revenue from professional fees are what’s behind a proposed $1.2 million funding cut for the School of Pharmacy at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Gov. Pat Quinn proposed the cut for SIUE along with schools of pharmacy at Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Rockford.

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Updated 12:41 p.m.

Illinois is settling a federal securities-fraud charge that it misled investors about the health of its pension system.

Gov. Pat Quinn's office said Monday that the state has agreed to settle the Securities and Exchange Commission case. The SEC said in a news release that Illinois admitted no wrongdoing but has made more complete disclosures since 2009.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky.

In his annual budget address today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn laid the blame on the General Assembly for forcing him to cut spending on schools and other key state priorities. Quinn says the cost of pensions is "squeezing" Illinois' finances, to the point that he's calling for a $400 million hit to education.

(Read the full text of the governor's prepared remarks

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Ill. Governor Pat Quinn will present his budget address in Springfield on Wednesday.

The state is reported to have the worst-funded pension system in the country - and has about $97 billion in unfunded obligations.

"Obviously, our pension reform will be part of the address, the need for getting that done right and getting it done now," said Quinn.

Quinn has said the pensions are unsustainable and are taking money away from other key government services.

Flickr/Jason Dunnivant

Reporting from Amanda Vinicky from Illinois Public Radio.

A new session of the Illinois General Assembly begins today, when candidates who won in November's elections take the oath of office.  The outgoing class of legislators left the incoming one with quite a burden.  

Tuesday night, the previous General Assembly adjourned without doing anything to reduce Illinois' $97 billion pension debt, though there were a few last minute tries.

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Updated  5:30 p.m. Reporting from Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky and Brian Mackey used in this report.

The Illinois House has just adjourned the 97th General Assembly permanently, without taking a vote on the pension legislation.

The commission proposed earlier in the day by Gov. Quinn (more below) was not addressed.

Members of the House approved it in committee, but several said they were doing so only as a show of respect for the governor, and had serious reservations about whether the idea was constitutional.

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Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn has said repeatedly his top priority is dealing with the state’s pensions - the worst- funded in the country. He’s held countless press conferences and made the argument that pension costs take away money for other state programs.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross says proposals to deal with the pension funds have been around for two years.

"We’ve talked about these to a point where we don’t need to talk any more," said Cross. "We’ve got to do this."

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Negotiations for a complete overhaul of Illinois' underfunded pension systems continue. But the president of the state Senate is again pushing a measure his chamber approved months ago.

Governor Pat Quinn has been adamant that something pass before the General Assembly's current session ends for good on Wednesday.

In May, the Senate passed legislation that reduces state workers' and legislators' own retirement benefits. But the House never took it up.  Senate President John Cullerton says representatives should do so when they return to Springfield on Sunday.

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The Illinois Senate returns to the Capitol on Wednesday to begin a weeklong legislative session that could take up pension reform, legalizing gay marriage and banning assault rifles.

The 97th General Assembly will finish its work Jan. 9 when a new Legislature is sworn in. That means there are many lame-duck lawmakers not returning who might feel less constrained to vote for contentious issues. The House comes in Sunday.

Gov. Pat Quinn has made it a priority for the assembly to find a solution to the state employee retirement programs that are underfunded by $96 billion.

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The chances of quick action on Illinois' pension problems are growing slimmer.

Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday that he believes a pension overhaul can be passed by the end of the legislative session, which is in January. The Democratic governor wants action "as soon as possible," but his remarks did not suggest that will happen this fall.

His comments come a day after Senate President John Cullerton told the Chicago Tribune he doesn't think a pension overhaul can pass until January, when legislative rules mean passage requires fewer votes.

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