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Pension war comes down to two plans

SPRINGFIELD -- State leaders are set to meet Friday to try to reach a deal on pension reform before the Illinois General Assembly returns to the capitol next week for special session.
SPRINGFIELD -- State leaders are set to meet Friday to try to reach a deal on pension reform before the Illinois General Assembly returns to the capitol next week for special session. Lawmakers are at an impasse because of two different bills. One has passed the house, the other passed the senate. Neither chamber will approve the other chamber's bill.

The house passed an amended version of SB1, which would increase contributions for current employees, reduce cost of living increases for retirees and raise the retirement age. Some experts who have examined the plan say it would save the state the most money.

But unions have threatened to sue if SB1 becomes law because they claim it violates the state's constitution, which they claim guarantees their benefits. So a coalition of unions negotiated another bill in the state senate, SB2404. That bill gives employees a choice, keep current benefits and lose retiree healthcare or contribute more and receive that retiree healthcare. The speaker of the house and other critics say SB2404 won't save enough money.

Governor Pat Quinn has asked for a compromise bill which would combine the two pieces of legislation. If the courts approve the SB1-style plan, that bill would become law. But if the courts reject it, the state could fall back on the SB2404 plan.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan has said he doesn't plan on asking the house to vote for SB2404. He's calling on Quinn to lobby with Cullerton and convince the senate to pass SB1.

Legislators return to the capitol June 19.
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