Illinois lawmakers failed to act on a crucial pension-reform package as the spring legislative session ended Thursday night, prompting Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to threaten a special session to deal with the issue.
According to the Chicago Tribune
, the failure of the pension reform measure in the Democratic-controlled legislature “dealt a significant blow” to the governor, who pushed lawmakers to put aside other measures and do something to help rein in the cost of the state employee retirement system.
The Tribune reported that Quinn would likely meet with legislative leaders soon in hopes of reaching an agreement on the bill and then call the legislature back into session this summer to take action.
“As I have repeatedly made clear, inaction on pension reform is not a choice,” Quinn said. “We must fundamentally reform our pension system, and we must enact bold reform that eliminates the unfunded liability.”
According to the Tribune, the state retirement system is carrying $83 billion in debt, making it the worst funded public pension in the country. Democrats and Republicans agree that it has to be fixed, but disagree on how to do it.
Both sides also say continued failure to deal with the issue could lead to a second downgrade in the state’s credit rating, which the Tribune reported has already been downgraded once to “worst in the nation” by one credit agency.
Without a decent rating, it makes it more difficult for the state government to borrow money.
“We need to find a bipartisan way on both sides — a solution to this pension issue,” said state House Republican leader Tom Cross. “Pension issues and debates create controversy and a lot of emotion. It doesn’t do us any good to continue to fight.”
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