CHICAGO — Illinois lawmakers will return to Springfield Friday for a rare one-day special session to tackle the state’s pension liability, the worst in the nation.
In the week ahead of the session, top lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn continued to bicker over proposed reforms. Quinn called the special session to take up pension reform efforts that stalled during the regular session last spring.
It’s unclear what legislation Democrats and Republicans will be able to agree on, with some top lawmakers complaining that it will be too difficult to solve the problem in a brief afternoon session that begins at 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Legislative leaders are set to meet with Quinn, a Democrat, before the session.
The Senate in the spring passed a bill that includes cost-of-living changes and other reforms for state employees and General Assembly members, who make up two of the state’s five pension funds. That bill could come up for a vote in the House Friday, though House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, indicated Wednesday that Democrats will not pass the bill without Republican support, despite having the votes to do so.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said Thursday that House Republicans were unlikely to support the proposal because it’s not comprehensive enough.
“We believe we need to do something real,” Cross told local reporters Thursday morning during Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair. “We have one chance at it. If we do something that nibbles around the edges, then we’re done with pensions for awhile.”
The state’s unfunded pension liabilities total $82.9 billion, for a 43% funded ratio, the worst among the states.
Moody’s Investors Service recently put the liability at $130 billion, an increase that came from assuming that rates of return will be around 5.5% compared to the current assumption of 8.5%.
Pension payments will consume $45 billion of the state’s $33.7 billion fiscal 2013 budget, up $1.1 billion from the previous year.