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Doug Finke

Two pension plans; now what?

No sign that either chamber will take up the other’s proposal

No sign that either chamber will take up the other’s proposal

OK, now the House has passed a pension reform plan, and the Senate has passed a pension reform plan.

The problem, obviously, is that neither of those plans is on Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. Until one of them gets there, even phase one of pension reform isn’t complete. (Phase two will be the inevitable court challenge).

Less than 3 weeks remain in the spring session before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment, so there’s still time to work out a solution to pension reform.

It’s the “how” that has people guessing.

The House and Senate plans take different approaches to pension reform and achieve greatly different savings. The Senate plan is pushed by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, while the House version has the imprimatur of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Madigan dismissed any notion that pension reform may fall victim to a rivalry between the two chambers or the two legislative leaders. Still, there’s no indication now that either the House or Senate plans to take up the pension bill passed by the other.

What is unfathomable to many observers is that the General Assembly would go another year without doing something concrete about spiraling pension costs. One way or another, they figure, the House and Senate will have to figure out a way to finally get something to Quinn that he can sign.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEE unions, who negotiated the Senate plan with Cullerton, made it clear during a Senate committee hearing that the bill is their bottom line.

The unions have signed onto the plan now and promised not to take it to court if it is approved. But, they said, that’s only if the bill is approved as is. If it gets changed, all bets are off.

That was fine as far as the Senate goes, because that’s where the bill was created. However, it still has to be approved by the House.

Remember, after the House OK’d its own plan, Madigan accused the public employee unions of trying to stall pension reform. At least, he singled out Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, of trying to delay a resolution.

Also, a year ago, Madigan was involved in pension talks with unions and finally broke them off when he decided the unions weren’t willing to give any ground.

Now, a union-backed pension reform bill that Madigan had no apparent role in negotiating is heading to the House with basically a take-it-or-leave-it stipulation.

FOR THOSE WHO think lawmakers don’t work hard enough, the General Assembly is scheduled to be in session the next two weekends.

We’ll see whether they actually work either weekend.

They said it

“We’re here to legislate, not send multiple choice quizzes to the Supreme Court.”

– Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, on the idea of approving multiple pension reform bills and letting the courts sort them out.

•  •  •

“As a lawyer legislator, you can’t just say, ‘Oh, screw the Constitution, let’s just proceed without it.’”

– Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, on whether lawmakers should consider the chances a pension reform bill is constitutional before approving it.

•  •  •

“Promises are like babies. They are easy to make, hard to deliver and raise.”

– Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, on pension promises made to public employees.

Two pension plans; now what? shaw-push-component-1