There was a joker in the deck nobody was counting on. As word spread through the statehouse of the unpopularity of a plan to make local school districts pay into their teachers’ pension systems – which would likely set off corresponding property tax increases – House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) had a surprise.
To cap a contentious couple of days toward the end of the spring session, which is to end today, Madigan announced he would remove the cost shift from the bill, and let his Republican counterpart, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), sponsor it.
The tipping point, Madigan said, was a Wednesday morning meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn. “I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue,” Madigan said during a House floor speech. “He agrees with you. He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the remove the issue of the shift of the normal cost out of the bill. I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor.”
The bill is in a House committee this morning and could pass both chambers of the General Assembly later. Pension restructuring and a state budget would complete the most major items on the “to-do” list.
The bulk of the pension package, meant to correct a shortfall north of $80 billion, forces a choice upon state workers: continued health insurance or a higher cost-of-living adjustment.
Today is the last scheduled day of session. Bills passing after today must have a three-fifths majority, meaning at least some Republicans will have to vote for them.