* Subscribers have some extremely hard to come by details of organized labor’s pension proposal, but let’s start here with Senate President John Cullerton’s press release…
Since the beginning of session, I have made it clear that enacting constitutional pension reform is my top priority. Illinois faces a crisis; we owe it to our children and grandchildren to take action.
I have worked to build consensus for reform within my caucus and across the diverse factions on both sides of the aisle. In these pension discussions, I have expressed a preference for the framework that, in my view, has the best chance of holding up in court. I have also worked to include labor in these conversations.
Today, I concluded a series of meetings with representatives of teachers, nurses, police officers and other public employees. This coalition of labor leaders offered a credible and constitutional plan for consideration.
* From the We Are One Coalition…
Our coalition has consistently said that we want to work together with policymakers to address Illinois’ pension funding problem. We appreciate that, over the past several weeks, Senate President John Cullerton opened up dialogue with us, and we have worked diligently with him to find common ground. Today, we presented President Cullerton with a proposal that is both fair and constitutional, and we are heartened that he has responded positively to our efforts.
* Cullerton’s remarks to the media…
Cullerton said [yesterday] afternoon that he has not yet reached a final agreement with union leaders. But he says they have presented him a “substantial proposal” that his caucus will consider along with House Speaker Michael Madigan’s plan, if it passes Thursday.
“We’re not finished talking to them. We might want to make some proposed changes to their proposal. We just got it today,” Cullerton told reporters. “What’s significant is that they’re supportive of a major bill that saves billions of dollars, which I would say they’ve never been before. So that’s a major move. There’s still some details to work out.”
Cullerton said the union’s plan is based on the concept that workers must be offered something in exchange for pension cuts. He has maintained that without such a trade, any bill that reduces retirement benefits would be unconstitutional. “Since it’s not unilateral cuts, it doesn’t save as much money, but it’s billions of dollars,” he said of the union proposal.
When asked if he would call Madigan’s bill, Cullerton said he would consult his members. “We’re going to hopefully see what the caucus wants to do, whether they want to support that bill, or the bill that the unions are supportive [of] or a combination thereof.” He noted that the Senate has already rejected a bill similar to the one the House plans to vote on Thursday. “We’ll see if this has any differences that get more people to be supportive, but you know, it’s not like we haven’t voted on this already,” Cullerton said.
Speaker Madigan plans to call his own pension bill today. We’ll discuss that in another post. Also, make sure to keep a close eye on the session live blog post for updates on this and other issues as the day goes on.