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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois labor unions have filed a lawsuit seeking a new plan to reduce the state's $100 billion pension shortfall declared unconstitutional.
 
The We Are One Illinois Coalition of public employee unions filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit court.
 
The long-anticipated legal challenge comes weeks after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law and ahead of his annual State of the State address.
 
The bill approved by the Legislature in early December saves an estimated $160 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.
 
Unions say it violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished. Several other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of retirees.
 
Supporters of the plan believe the Court will uphold it because it's necessary to repair the state's finances.
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A published report says groups with ties to the pension-reform law adopted last month have contributed close to $3 million to Illinois Supreme Court justices who might decide its fate.
 
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that six of seven justices have taken money in the past 13 years from labor unions, business groups and a political committee controlled by Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.
 
Retired teachers have sued to stop the pension-reform plan that cuts retiree benefits to reduce a $100 billion debt.
 
Most of the pension-related money went to former Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride. He accepted $2.5 million from both Madigan and business groups in a 2010 retention battle.
 
Current Chief Justice Rita Garman says court decisions are based on constitutional standards, not politics.
 
Published in Local News
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The amount Illinois must pay to keep pace with its pension systems should grow less than 2 percent next year but still total nearly $7 billion.
 
A state actuary's report that Auditor General William Holland released Tuesday says taxpayers must pay $6.86 billion in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That's up about $100 million from this fiscal year.
 
Lawmakers adopted a reform plan in early December for the five pension systems to cut a $100 billion debt. But it doesn't take effect until June 1 and has been challenged in court.
 
The actuary suggested that three systems covering teachers, university employees and general state employees lower the estimated investment return they expect. It made the same suggestion last year but the numbers didn't change.
Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - After wrestling with public pension reform for months, Illinois legislative leaders say lawmakers might only need a single day to pass their plan for dealing with the $100 billion crisis.

The 10-member conference committee on pension reform is set to meet in Springfield Tuesday. If six of the 10 members sign a report agreeing to terms of a deal, both chambers could bring legislation up for a vote the same day.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says the legislation could be considered in both chambers simultaneously.

Legislative leaders announced this week they had reached agreement on a plan that would save $160 billion over 30 years.

Along with Gov. Pat Quinn, they have spent recent days calling members and asking them to support the plan.

Published in Local News
Thursday, 21 November 2013 17:10

Unions plan 'emergency days' to lobby lawmakers

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Legislative leaders discussed a developing plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis as the state's biggest employee unions planned a lobbying push to oppose it.

The "We are One Coalition" represents the state's major public employee unions. It alerted members this week about "emergency call-in days" next week and on Dec. 2-3.

Members are being asked to call lawmakers and urge them to vote against pension bills that don't have union support.

Legislative leaders spoke Thursday about a plan they say could save close to $150 billion over 30 years. Officials reported progress but said more meetings are expected. Lawmakers have been alerted about a possible special session on Dec. 3.

Unions say they weren't consulted about the plan and that they think elements of it are unconstitutional.

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says the state's $97 billion pension shortfall isn't as dire as some people are describing.

The Chicago Democrat told WGN Radio that the pension shortfall is not an imminent crisis, but that finding a solution can help keep Illinois' income taxes down.

Cullerton made the remarks as lawmakers head back to Springfield to begin their fall veto session Tuesday. They face considerable pressure to deal with the pension problem, considered the nation's worst. But a bipartisan committee working on reform is split over a plan that saves $138 billion over 30 years.

Cullerton says the state has been putting more money into its pension systems in recent years under a 1996 law.  He says he wants to lower the annual amount the state pays in.

 

Published in Local News

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards.

Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits.

But several states have started to question whether these organizations should get such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.

New Jersey and Illinois are among the states considering legislation that would end their inclusion.

But such groups argue that they are entitled to public pensions because they give a voice to government entities that serve taxpayers.

Published in National News

CHICAGO (AP) - Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to bring the state's legislative leaders together for around-the-clock talks to resolve the state's $97 billion pension shortfall.

At a news conference on Monday, Daley urged Quinn to get more aggressive in trying to solve the worst-in-the-nation crisis by bringing legislative leaders to the governor's mansion in Springfield to negotiate until they reach some kind of deal.

Daley has formed an exploratory committee as he considers running against Quinn in next spring's Democratic primary.

Daley says the governor is wasting time and dismissed Quinn's suspension of lawmakers' pay until they come up with a solution to the crisis as a gimmick that may even be unconstitutional.

Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to hold around-the-clock talks to resolve the state's $97 billion pension shortfall.

   Daley will hold a news conference in Chicago on Monday to publicly urge the governor to get more aggressive in trying to solve the crisis.

   Daley has formed an exploratory committee as he considers running against Quinn in next spring's Democratic primary.

   Daley campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco told The Associated Press on Monday that "a confluence of issues" in the last week has increased the urgency for Illinois lawmakers to solve the state's worst-in-the-nation pension problem.

   Giangreco says that includes the lowering of Chicago's bond rate, Detroit's bankruptcy and a higher Illinois unemployment rate.

   He says the state's problem is "beyond a crisis now."

   

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers have convened a special session in Springfield, where they're expected to move ahead with plans to form a committee to deal with pensions.

Moving to committee requires a vote by both the House and Senate.

Gov. Pat Quinn met separately with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Wednesday morning.

Republican House Leader Tom Cross says the governor wants to move ahead quickly so pension reform can be voted on by early July in another special session.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each would get three appointees to the 10-member committee. Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (rah-DOH'-nyoh) each would get two.

Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.

 

Published in Local News
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