(Adds comments by Senate Republican leader)
By Karen Pierog and Dave McKinney
CHICAGO Feb 8 A bipartisan deal aimed at ending
Illinois' long-running budget impasse stumbled on Wednesday when
a key pension measure failed to pass in the state Senate.
Following the passage of three other bills tied together in
a legislative package, a measure to ease Illinois' $130 billion
unfunded pension liability was rejected in a 29-18 vote, with 10
members voting "present."
Even though Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno
crafted the package with Democratic Senate President John
Cullerton, she still urged her members not to vote in the
affirmative because disagreements remained on some of the 12
bills, particularly on school funding and workers' compensation.
"I think this is a breach of our agreement," Radogno said
ahead of the pension bill vote.
Afterward, Radogno sounded less pessimistic, describing the
day's developments as a "little drama but not the end of the
Earlier, during debate, Cullerton insisted there was no need
to wait and moved the sprawling pension legislation through the
chamber in a mere seven minutes.
"It's the right thing to do. It's constitutional. And when
are we going to do this if we don't do it today? Let's go," he
After the legislation was defeated, Cullerton said talks
would continue with Republicans.
Illinois is limping through a record-setting second
consecutive fiscal year without a complete budget due to an
ongoing feud between the Republican governor and Democrats who
control the legislature.
The pension legislation, which the state's public-sector
unions oppose as unconstitutional, modifies the longstanding,
compounding, 3 percent annuity increase most future state
retirees are now promised.
Workers hired before January 2011 would not have future pay
raises factored into their eventual pensions unless they accept
a less generous annuity increase formula that would provide 3
percent noncompounding post-retirement raises or half the rate
of inflation, whichever is lower.
Cullerton predicted the change could cut state pension costs
by as much as $1 billion annually and be deemed constitutional
by Illinois' courts, which in 2015 struck down an earlier effort
to strip workers of their 3 percent, compounding,
post-retirement annual increases.
The other three bills that passed the Senate solely on
Democratic votes tightened state contracting rules, authorized
government consolidation in counties, and allowed certain state
aid for home-rule governments to be sent directly to bond
trustees for debt payments. Remaining bills in the package
include tax hikes, a massive borrowing to pay overdue bills, a
local property tax freeze and a casino expansion.
(Editing by Peter Cooney and Matthew Lewis)