Pension reform deal reached in Illinois

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Springfield, IL (WGN) — After years of meetings, special sessions, ultimatums, and eventually docked pay for lawmakers, it appears the Illinois General Assembly has reached a deal on pension reform.

The news comes on the eve of a major holiday as everyone is heading out of town.

It will affect tens of thousands of workers directly, and it is supposed to amount to $160 billion in savings over 30 years but the details are slim.

“The president says a deal has been reached, and will continue to work in support of that deal,” according to a spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.

Leaders from the Illinois House and Senate met over the past two days inside the Bilandic Building in Chicago. Word is spreading fast as Illinois’ credit rating continued to be downgraded in recent years, and we carried one of the most underfunded pension plans in the country.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a great critic of lawmakers in recent months, spoke from Washington, Ill., on Wednesday: “The key is to erase a $100 billion liability that’s hovering over our state’s economy, and hurts our state’s economy and hurts our jobs. And if we erase that liability, we’re going to help Illinois in our economy immeasurably and help our tax payers.”

House Speaker Mike Madigan is pleased with the end result, his spokesman says. So is the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, noting how the city has felt hamstrung because of growing pension problems lawmakers have ignored downstate for too long.

But not everybody is happy, starting with the We Are One Illinois Coalition of Union which represents state employees who feel the government is stealing from them.

In a statement, they say they’ve been left out of this deal: “Unions representing hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees were not included in the leaders’ talks. If their new plan is in line with what’s been reported from earlier discussions, then it’s an unfair, unconstitutional scheme that undermines retirement security.”

“Everything we’re hearing, it’s a very bad deal. They are going to jeopardize the retirement security of tens of thousands teachers, firefighters and other public employees without any input from the employees themselves,” said Henry Bayer of AFSCME.

Political leaders are expected to caucus on Friday, and then everyone will be called down to Springfield for a vote on Tuesday.