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State News

June 27, 2013

Pension panel's 1st hearing has familiar testimony



"This is an emergency," Quinn said after the signing. "Just listening to some of these folks on that committee, they've spent more time complaining about the deadline than they should in my opinion spend time doing the work of getting pension reform."

The Chicago Democrat also threatened that any bill that lawmakers send him that's "piecemeal or insufficient or inadequate" will be vetoed. He said any plan must fully fund the pension system.

Several members of the committee said it was more important to come up with an actuarially sound plan than meet quickly approaching Quinn's deadline and that they wouldn't be wedded to either the Cullerton or Madigan plans.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat who has been involved in pension talks for years, said the committee was a chance to set a "factual foundation" and if Quinn wanted the group to meet earlier, he should have instructed them to do so.

"I hope we can hear from folks who are willing to help us get beyond that and not retreat back to our respective corners," she told committee members. "We need to be cognizant of the urgency of that and still change our mindsets, and that's not easy to do."

She and others said it was encouraging to see lawmakers on both sides at the same table, at least listening to the issues — something they said might finally lead to a solution after years of inaction. The committee has six Democrats and four Republicans.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said he thought Quinn's deadline was reasonable.

Illinois has roughly $98 billion in unfunded pension liability because legislators skipped or shorted payments to state retirement funds for years. While no one disagrees that it's the state's most pressing problem, lawmakers adjourned the spring legislative session again last month without a deal, making it the fifth time in a year that they've left town without solving the problem.

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