Illinois legislative leaders last week completed their appointments to a special pension reform panel convened by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The group will be led by Quinn aide Jerry Stermer. Other members named by the General Assembly’s leaders include Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, and Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville.

The panel is charged with coming up with reforms that can win lawmakers’ approval and pass a constitutional challenge.

A plan last year that would have protected the accrued benefits of current employees while reducing future benefits or raising the costs of existing benefits stalled amid union opposition.

Pension reform is among the major issues facing Illinois lawmakers as they return to work this year. Lawmakers previously approved a plan that reduces benefits for future employees.

Illinois’ unfunded pension obligations grew by $7 billion in fiscal 2011 to $82.9 billion for a funded ratio of just 43.4 %.

Illinois contributed $4.3 billion in fiscal 2011 to the funds. It will contribute $4.9 billion in the current fiscal year and $5.8 billion in fiscal 2013.

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