No progress on pension reform during special session

By Denise Jackson

August 17, 2012 Updated Aug 20, 2012 at 9:27 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- State Lawmakers made their way to Springfield Friday, but pension reform remains in limbo.

Governor Pat Quinn and four legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement on pension reform measure, leaving little for lawmakers to discuss.

The debate on pension reform heated up at times during a special session in Springfield on Friday.

"This is not a game, this is not a charade. We must start somewhere," said Democratic Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie.

"You decided to go your own way. If this is the paradigm that you want, if this is how you want to go forth next year, then you can do the budget by yourself, you can handle pensions by yourself," said House Republican Jim Watson.

By a vote of 54 to 53, the House approved an amendment to the Senate bill 3168 on a second reading. It would have eliminated retirement plans for newly elected members of the legislature, but that same amendment failed to get a majority vote.

"Quite frankly it was a farce. So basically, what you have is a special session day that was called that produced no real comprehensive reform," said Bloomington area House Member Dan Brady.

State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth says she does not understand why Governor Quinn called the special session because the House was scheduled to meet on another matter anyway.

"Unfortunately, state money is gonna be wasted because of that and it was completely unnecessary, because we were already be here," she said.

During a news conference after the House adjourned, Republican Minority Leader Tom Cross called for intense negotiations and charged Governor Pat Quinn with refusing to meet with them.

"It's not gonna go away, it's not gonna get better, it's something we desperately need to do in a bipartisan collaborative manner," he said.

"We're not gonna let them deny and delay. I think it's time to get the people involved. I intend in the next few days to activate a strategy that lets the everyday people and the leaders who are not in politics have an opportunity to have their say," Quinn said.

Quinn does not appear to be backing off the idea of shifting pension costs to local governments, saying Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman sent him a letter also supporting that option.

Right now, it is unclear if anything regarding pension reform will happen soon. With summer winding down and the fall political election season approaching, time could be running out for legislators.

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