* I’m not so sure that I agree with Sen. Murphy here. Subscribers know more, but yesterday’s committee votes don’t really signal that any progress is being made on pension reform. Maybe the opposite…
A Senate panel endorsed two pension reform proposals Wednesday, but the lack of excitement about the dueling pieces of legislation may signal trouble ahead for the long-sought solutions.
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Executive Committee said they were voting “yes” on the two fixes only so the proposals could continue to be further debated by the full Senate, perhaps as early as Thursday.
Senators also patted themselves on the back, arguing that they are moving faster on the state’s No. 1 issue than their counterparts in the House.
“There is a willingness to solve this problem,” said state Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine.
* This all started Tuesday, when word went around that top business types had turned against Senate President John Cullerton’s SB1. Subscribers found out Wednesday morning, before the biz groups issued a statement…
A coalition that includes many of the state’s leading business groups and some civic organizations is stepping up its opposition to the pension-reform bill being offered by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.
In a joint letter, organizations including the Illinois and Chicagoland chambers of commerce, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Taxpayers Federation of Illinois and Metropolitan Planning Council say that Mr. Cullerton’s bill would not help pare the state’s unfunded pension liability much and “could put the state in an even much more tenuous financial situation.” […]
The core of the group’s argument, which parallels criticism earlier from Civic Committee of the Commercial Club President Tyrone Fahner, is that Mr. Cullerton’s proposal to guarantee retirees access to health care in exchange for some trims in pension benefits won’t do enough to cut the state’s overall liability.
“The exchange has the potential to create a constitutional protection for retiree health care benefits that does not currently exist — thereby tying the state’s hands even further when managing its budget,” the letter said. With retiree health insurance costs potentially “in the tens of billions of dollars,” Mr. Cullerton’s bill would not cut the state’s liability nearly as much as another plan from Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, which would slash current unfunded state liability by $30 billion, about a third of the current $97 billion figure.
* But, of course, it’s not just the biz groups that are opposed…
Although Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 35 were both approved by the tightly controlled Senate Executive Committee, several Democrats on the committee made it clear they were not pledging their support if or when the bills come up for final votes in the chamber.
* And this is kind of a stretch…
Cullerton has argued that “consideration” must be an element of pension reform, meaning that workers must be given a choice if changing pension benefits is going to be upheld by the courts.
However, Ty Fahner of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago testified that simply giving a guarantee that the state will make its required contribution to the pensions systems “is more than enough consideration.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan said Wednesday public employee retirement benefits will have to be less generous if the state is going to get a handle on its pension costs.
Speaking to reporters after addressing a conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Madigan specifically said changes to annual cost of living adjustments to retirement benefits will have to change.
“One place you must go is the COLA adjustment. You cannot evade that,” Madigan said of components that must be part of pension reforms.
The Speaker also attempted to convince IBEW leaders to help him convince AFSCME to make a deal…
Madigan singled out the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, led by executive director Henry Bayer, as one of the main opponents in achieving pension reforms.
“I know how it is in unionism. There’s solidarity and there’s brotherhood,” Madigan said. “But I think the time has come where all of us have to call upon Henry Bayer and the AFSCME union to recognize the reality of the facts and these numbers. It’s not just his money. It’s not just the money of the AFSCME members. It’s all of our money.”