Editorial: 10 legislators working to make pension reform happen, but they need Madigan and Cullerton

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dare we say it?
State public employee pension reform may, one day soon, become a reality in Illinois.
This summer, while most of the news coverage has focused on the fight between Gov. Pat Quinn and the Democratic leaders in the Legislature over Quinn’s decision to suspend legislative pay until they cut pension costs, a bipartisan group of 10 legislators has quietly been working hard to make it happen.
We hear the pension conference committee is close to a deal to cut the costs of the state’s four pension systems, covering teachers outside Chicago, state employees, legislators and university workers. In case you’ve missed it, the state’s unfunded pension liability is roughly $100 billion and strangling state spending on education, health care and more.
The committee, which meets next on Wednesday, has broken free of two approaches that failed to get through the Legislature and have basically nailed a method for cutting benefits, mirroring key elements of a plan advanced by the presidents of the 14 public universities in Illinois. Number crunchers analyzed the deal and reported substantial savings, though not as substantial as in the bill we supported last spring. We’ll withhold final judgment until we see the numbers, but it goes without saying that no bill will get past the goal line without a heavy dose of compromise by all.