Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont)
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno says she believes Democrats are pushing a plan that would shift some public pension costs from the state to local school districts as a sort of stall tactic.
"I think the Democrats are concerned that this would be too tough for their base, meaning the labor unions, to take going into an election," the Lemont Republican said from her Chicago office Tuesday. "Having said that, I think anybody with any sense at all recognizes this has got to happen."
Radogno said there are several public pension-related issues on which Republicans and Democrats agree that should be called to a vote, but said Democrats are trying to mix pension reform with pension funding.
One of those issues that could be called for a vote now, she said, is a change to the cost-of-living adjustment. That plan would give public employees the choice either to stick with their current, higher pension benefits and lose the state's free health insurance, or agree to a lower cost-of-living increase and keep the insurance.
"It does the job. It stabilizes systems," said Radogno.
Still, she predicted a vote may not come until January.
"Well I hope we can do better than that. We'll work as hard as we can," Gov. Pat Quinn said at an unrelated press event.
Quinn had hoped pension reform legislation would have been a done deal by the end of the regular legislative session. That didn't happen, so he's set his own deadline of June 30.
"I have a plan. I think it's a good plan. I think it's time for the legislators to realize that taxpayers come first and that means enacting a pension reform plan now," he said. "It's time to end the politics and start rolling up our sleeves and enacting a long overdue reform that will help taxpayers today, tomorrow and especially children who want a good education and don't want their education money squeezed out by pension."
Illinois schools could see costs rise by nearly $600 million after five years of a plan to make them shoulder the expense of providing pensions for teachers, according to new figures.