Gov. Pat Quinn offered a compromise suggestion today on how to break the impasse on pension reform: combine the dueling plans into one bill and let the courts sort it out.
But Speaker Michael Madigan was cool to the idea, suggesting the governor instead should focus on building support for the proposal that’s already passed the House.
"This is like a lot of things in the legislature," Madigan said. "You can make it complicated if you wish, or you can keep it simple. Let me say it again: The best pension bill that passed so far, and the one that does the most cost savings is the House bill, and that's in the Senate. And the governor ought to work to get that passed."
The developments, such as they were, came after a two-hour meeting between Quinn and Democratic legislative leaders as they try to reach agreement on how to overhaul the state's heavily indebted public employee pension system.
The meeting of the minds took place a little more than a week before lawmakers will return to Springfield for a special session on the issue, though just what their return will accomplish is unclear if there’s no plan to vote on.
To that end, Senate President John Cullerton said Quinn has asked him to re-introduce legislation that would combine two differing approaches, the idea being if one portion of the legislation is thrown out by the court the rest of the measure would stand.
One portion of the proposal would push back retirement dates, ask employees to pay more for benefits and scale back annual cost of living increases. The other portion would allow workers and retirees to keep their health care and receive reduced benfits, or keep their current pension plan but give up health care. The measure would not go into effect for another year, meaning it would only need a simple majority to pass instead of three-fifths support.
Cullerton said it was unclear if his new proposal would have the votes needed to pass the Senate. Even if it did, Madigan made no promise to call the measure before the House.
Cullerton acknowledged there was not an agreed way forward, but said "we're going to proceed anyway."
Quinn, meanwhile appealed for Madigan and Cullerton to work together to send him a bill, saying they have historically had no problem pushing through legislation addressing their priorities.
"They know how to work together when they want to, so now it's time for them to apply that same approach, that same attitude to comprehensive pension reform," Quinn said.