Legislative leaders will revisit the subject of pension reforms in five weeks.
After their latest meeting to try and come to a compromise on pension reforms, legislative leaders have decided to take five weeks to make sure schools across the state are funded equally.
It’s the latest piece to be rolled into talks on reforming teacher pensions by shifting the burden from the state to suburban and Downstate school districts. Chicago schools already pay the cost of their teachers’ pensions.
Gov. Pat Quinn says he’ll allow five weeks for legislative leaders to investigate, but reminds those lawmakers it comes at a cost. “I agreed to, over the next five weeks, to study this issue with the leaders of the legislature on school funding issues and the impact it would have on school districts…but we ultimately have to come to moving the ball forward,” Quinn said. “We have to get fundamental, comprehensive pension reform that deals with an $83 billion liability right now that’s growing …by $12.6 million a day, every day.”
House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) believes this is a stall tactic. “When you don’t want to deal with the free lunch for the local school districts, you talk about school funding,” Madigan says. Asked if he though some legislative leaders were trying to divert the issue, Madigan said “yes, you just talked to them,” referring to the Republican leaders. The Republican move is likely a tactic to force Democrats to drop the cost shifting plan from a pension reform bill, Madigan said.
The five-week reprieve means that pension reforms will not be in place come the start of the new fiscal year July 1. Credit rating agencies have been watching the state’s moves when it comes to pension reforms and have said the state’s ratings could be downgraded if reforms aren’t enacted. Quinn hopes the recently enacted reforms in Medicaid and state retiree health care will stave off any downgrades.