Illinois lawmakers might dodge pension bullet until next year - FOX 32 News Chicago

Illinois lawmakers might dodge pension bullet until next year

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Illinois has the worst unfunded pension liability in America, but it might be next year until the General Assembly votes to do anything about it.

With one rating agency threatening a "double downgrade" of Illinois's credit rating, Gov. Pat Quinn was still pushing hard Friday for quick action on the pension funding crisis.  

But Sen. President John Cullerton told us on FOX Chicago Sunday there's no way pension reform would win the super-majority vote it needs to take effect before next year.

"We can't pass a bill with 3/5ths vote. And therefore it doesn't do any good to come back this year to pass a pension bill," Cullerton said. "If we pass a bill this year with only a majority vote, it wouldn't even take effect until June of next year."

With all these problems, it's possible that Moody's and Standard and Poor will cut the state's credit rating.

"I think Moody's and Standard & Poor ought to look at the bill we passed in the Illinois Senate," Cullerton said. "They should see how close we are on passing a pension reform, a true pension reform. And see the cuts we made of two-and-a-half billion dollars."

Cullerton argued that it should be plain to the credit agencies that Illinois will eventually reduce its huge unfunded pension debt.  Quinn, though, said Friday  that the state can't wait.

"It must be resolved now," Quinn said. "We cannot let this go on and on for more decades. It's harming our people. It's harming our economy.  It's hurting our jobs. We are not going to be dead last in the country when it comes to pension liability."

Despite the governor's sense of urgency, some legislators are more worried about this fall's election.  Cullerton noted that his State Senate did take a tough vote and pass a pension reform bill last month, one that the House did not even consider.

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