End-of-session disputes Wednesday slowed the Illinois Legislature's momentum toward a deal to control rising pension costs and pass a painful state budget.
The idea of a massive gambling expansion also remained in limbo a day before lawmakers were scheduled to wrap up their spring session.
House Republicans and Democrats had been collaborating on a budget that would cut most areas of state government. Then House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, released a surprise proposal to reduce state pension costs by trimming retirees' cost-of-living increases and shifting some expenses to schools and colleges.
Madigan's proposal passed through a committee Tuesday, but it was put it on hold amid howls of opposition.
On Wednesday, Republicans called Madigan's pension move a betrayal and said it was making them rethink their cooperation on the budget.
"We thought we had some agreements on where we would go, and then yesterday we got a bill that says, 'No, that's all out the window because I'm the speaker, I can do whatever I please,"' said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.
House Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said it makes no sense for Republicans to abandon budget efforts.
"Right now, Republicans in the House are in a snit and they're not playing ball. They're picking up their marbles and going home," Currie said.
And in the Senate, a committee ran into wall during hours of debate on pensions, disagreeing on whether to make non-Chicago schools pay retirement costs for their employees. The committee ended up not even voting on the issue.
The state is obligated to contribute an increasing amount of money each year to retirement funds for public employees. The obligation chips away at the rest of the state's needs, so officials are trying to change the payment schedule.
One way to justify smaller payments would be to reduce the annual 3 percent cost-of-living increase for retirees. While public-employee unions object, the idea seems to have solid support in the Legislature.
Another way is to make schools, universities and community colleges gradually take over the retirement costs the state now pays. That's what triggered such strong opposition when Madigan pushed it through committee with little notice.
In addition to addressing pensions, the Legislature also has to pass a state budget -- one that is likely to cut most programs because of climbing expenses and stagnating revenues. The Senate has already approved one version, while the House's plan would cut deeper in many areas.
One exception would be prisons, as the House budget includes money to operate prisons at Dwight and Tamms that Gov. Pat Quinn had proposed closing.
Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the appropriations committee that oversees public safety, said keeping those prisons open was partly a concession to Republicans.
"We're working hand in hand with the Republicans to be able to give them what they want so they can vote on the budget," Arroyo said.
The Illinois House has approved legislation allowing a land-based casino in Chicago, four more on riverboats in various cities and slot machines at ailing horse racing tracks. Supporters are likely to push for a vote in the Senate -- which has approved similar plans in the past -- before the session ends.