Talks on Illinois Pension Crisis End Without Deal

Illinois' unfunded pension liability has hit $96 billion

The fiscal cliff was avoided, but in Illinois, the massive pension crisis continues to boil.

A talk hosted by Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders on Saturday at Chicago's Thompson Center to fix the $96 billion problem ended without agreement.

"Unfortunately, there are still differences among the participants and my recommendation is that we move beyond the differences and find a bill we can pass," said Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan on Saturday.

The talk was scheduled after Madigan and other democrats backed off a push to shift downstate and suburban teachers’ retirement costs to local school districts on Friday. Republicans had argued the shift would raise property taxes.

"I did that in the spirit of trying to help the passage of a bill," said Madigan.

Quinn had called the move a breakthrough on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

But the breakthrough only revealed other unresolved issues blocking the bill.

Madigan said obstacles remain, including differences over cost-of-living adjustments for employees and retirees, and whether to require workers to contribute more.

"I remain flexible. I will vote for something that addresses the problem, I'm not married to any particular framework. I want to solve the problem," said State Sen. Christine Radogno.

Quinn is trying to come up with a solution to fix the $96 billion pension problem, something he's been trying to do since the summer. Quinn held a special session to solve the pension crisis in August, but state legislators were unable to agree on a bill.

Now Quinn wants to pass a bill during the lame-duck session which ends next week on Jan. 9.

"I would love to see us get something done by Tuesday night," said Rep. Tom Cross. "Putting this off does no good. It's an uncomfortable conversation. It always has been. It's only going to get worse."

Every day the pension problem goes unsolved, $17.1 million is added to the unfunded liability. But even with a resolution, there will be a price for millions of government workers in Illinois.

"We are telling people who have worked for governments, and who have been told for years how much their pension would be, that the number is going to change. They are going to get less in retirement then they thought they would," said Madigan.

Legislators will return to Springfield on Sunday for the remainder of the session to try and hammer out a solution they can all agree on.

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