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Pension Compromise on the Horizon?

As members of the Illinois House and Senate convene their special session Wednesday, it’s expected that they will form a conference committee – five members from each chamber, with majority Democrats making up three of each five – to try to work out a compromise on the state’s pension crisis. The pension systems are underfunded by an estimated $100 billion.

House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), who – as the spring session rumbled to a close May 31 – worked to oppose a Senate-passed, union-backed plan, endorsed the conference committee idea after a committee hearing in which that Senate plan was aired out.

“Obviously, there’s a need for some compromise,” Madigan told reporters. “The expectation is that the ten appointees to the (conference) committee will act in good faith and strike a compromise.”

Madigan supported a bill which is seen as more comprehensive but less constitutionally solid. That bill passed the House but failed in the Senate.

“The (Senate) bill is designed to meet a constitutional test, so its savings are real,” Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael Carrigan told the committee Tuesday. “We are highly confident the court would strike down (the House bill), so the savings in (the House bill) are as real as Squeezy the Python,” a cartoon character the governor’s office created to illustrate the state’s pension difficulties.

A spokeswoman for the governor says the conference committee’s product could be put to a vote in an “early July” special session of the legislature.

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