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Pension Reformers Vow to Reintroduce Bill

New legislators to be sworn in at noon Wednesday; Lawmakers confident deal can get done

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Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss vow to reintroduce pension reform bill soon after the new General Assembly begins Wednesday. Dick Johnson reports.

The sponsors of a comprehensive pension reform bill that failed to get approval this session pledged Tuesday evening to reintroduce the measure as early as Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm going to go down trying," State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook).

Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss said they will file the bill immediately after the new General Assembly begins at noon Wednesday. They said they are encouraged by the progress made in the past month and believe a deal is possible in the next legislative session.

"I feel like if we make as much progress in the next month as we made in the last month, we'll get it done in a month," said Biss (D-Evanston).

The House adjourned early Tuesday evening without a floor vote on reforming the pension system that's been called the worst in the nation.

Lawmakers were expected to vote on Gov. Pat Quinn's last-minute proposal to create an eight-member commission to deal with the $96 billion crisis, but Nekritz said it became clear that not enough legislators supported the idea and a vote was never called.

Senate President John Cullerton already led an effort to successfully pass one version of reform in his body. For him, the crux of the problem is the constitutionality of how reform is accomplished.

"The Constitution says you can't unilaterally pass a law taking away people's pension benefits. You have to ask them to do it contractually," said Cullerton.

That makes funding a bailout very complicated. Employee contributions and cost of living freezes were elements in the House bill sponsored by Nekritz, but her bill, like the governor's, was never called for a vote.

State lawmakers have been grappling with the pension issue for 70 years through a dozen governors, House speakers and Senate presidents. Until something is done, the pension deficit does grows roughly $17 million per day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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