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Political Rewind: Illinois Pension Reform Still Top Priority

It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.

Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.

Week in Review: Illinois Pension Reform Still Top Priority

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Capitol was quiet a week after lawmakers closed out the spring legislative session, but pension reform negotiations continue behind closed doors in Chicago

Legislative leaders meet with Quinn in Chicago

The state’s four top legislative leaders met with Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday in Chicago to begin hashing out pension reform.

The reform effort fell apart in the final hours of the legislative session, when lawmakers disagreed over shifting some costs to local school districts. Democrats supported the cost-shift, but Republicans said they feared it would lead to property tax hikes.

Quinn met with Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago; House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago; House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego; and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-.

State officials are gathering information from school districts statewide to find out how shifting some pension costs to them and away from the state would affect their bottom line.

“We can’t have partial solutions. That won’t get the job done,” Quinn told reporters after meeting with the leaders.

The reform package is a top priority for Quinn. If the state’s mounting pension liability goes unaddressed, its bond rating could be downgraded.

State’s unfunded pension liability picture could change

A recalculation of the investment returns in one of the state’s major pension funds could affect reform efforts this summer.

The Teachers Retirement System, the largest state-run public pension system, is recalculating the amount of money it makes on its investments. If the figure is lower than the current expected rate of return of 8.5 percent, the system’s unfunded liability would increase.

Furthermore, if the recalculated rate of return is less than 7.75 percent, the unfunded liability will continue to grow yearly, a state budget expert said.

TRS has an unfunded liability of $44 billion, or 55 percent unfunded, meaning it only has enough assets on hand to cover 45 percent of the cost of current and future pensions.

TRS recalculates its expected rate of return every five years. The latest recommendation to change the rate could come as soon as the system’s June 21-22 board meeting. TRS spokesman Dave Urbanek said no decision has been made, and no options have been presented to board members.

Lawmaker panel recommends discipline for indicted colleague

A panel of state lawmakers on Wednesday recommended that the state House pursue disciplinary action against indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith.

Members of the six-person House Special Investigative Committee, formed to examine a federal bribery charge against Smith, a Chicago Democrat, said their probe is complete, and reasonable grounds exist to pursue discipline against him.

The punishment, if any, could be reprimand, censure or expulsion. A new House committee will meet within the next 30 days to begin deliberating what should happen to Smith, who faces a federal charge of accepting a $7,000 bribe.

The new bipartisan Select Committee on Discipline will be headed by state Reps. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. It will have 12 members, or “jurors,” who will be appointed from the House — six from each party. Lang and Durkin will “try” the case, and the jurors will hear the case.

Any recommendation of punishment must go before the full House for a vote. A two-thirds majority is required for punishment to be handed down.

“Personally, it saddens me that we’re here today, not only personally, but on behalf of the institution — to go through this process with one of our members. I wish it were otherwise, but these are the cards we were dealt,” said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, chairwoman of the Special Investigative Committee.

State police settlement money due to former Death Row inmate

A $2.5-million settlement check from the Illinois State Police to former death row inmate Randy Steidl must be in hand by June 15, according to records in a civil rights lawsuit pending in federal court.

State police spokeswoman Monique Bond could not verify whether the agency anticipates any problems getting the settlement money to Steidl by the deadline.

“All I can confirm at this time is that the settlement has been approved,” Bond said.

The settlement was approved in October, but the General Assembly had to appropriate the funds, which will come from the fiscal 2013 budget.

Steidl, who turned 60 last year, spent more than 17 years in prison — 12 on death row — for the 1986 killings of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads in their Paris, Ill., home. The two were stabbed to death and their house set on fire.

The settlement with the state police, if it goes through, means the agency will be dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit, which is still pending against other defendants, such as the former Edgar County state’s attorney and the City of Paris.

Steidl's attorney Flint Taylor, who works for the People’s Law Office in Chicago, said the state has agreed to pay the settlement by June 15.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to happen. We’re in contact with the lawyers for the state, and they’re making every effort to comply,” he said.

— Jayette Bolinski

Lettuce June 27, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Oh, cute Katy K, I am an English teacher - capitalizing the E in English, as it is a proper noun and proper adjective. Schools don't have grammar teachers anymore. Actually, there never were. Grammar is a subcomponent of English or language arts. Perhaps you are thinking of the old term "grammar school," a phrase indicating what we now refer to as elementary school. What pension? Because I taught in a state other than Illinois for the first 12 years of my career, my pension is looking to be about $20,000 a year. And I have to forfeit all my Social Security monies (earned over more than 15 years of full time employment) because I now will have an Illinois state "pension." This is all assuming that by the time I retire when I am 87, any of the pension monies "borrowed" or "redirected" by the state have been replenished. So I know plenty and I will bash what I wish. Perhaps you are barking up the wrong tree. Go attack someone with a cuter blog name - that apparently is very important to you - and says volumes.
Barry Allen June 27, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Lettuce, Just because you are a member of the TRS does not prevent you from receiving Social Security. The TRS has a publication that addresses the issue ... it is not as cut and dried as you imply. I recommend you read: http://trs.illinois.gov/subsections/members/pubs/booklets/pub20.pdf which covers the issue.
Taxpayer_Mike June 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM
@Lettuce - english teacher eh! 'nuff said. If you can use your command of the English language to demean others, I will take license and do the same. The irony in all of this is we are all "gonna" get financially skewered in the end. The people making the "big" decisions have their pensions taken care leaving taxpayers and teachers languishing. We should all agree that means testing is coming and it will affect both TRS and social security recipients. And lettuce, for my final jab, the real irony bills have to be written using the english language, maybe it's possible that them darn repersentives down yonder springfied dont no what their write-n or read-n.
brian a October 09, 2012 at 06:43 PM
If Illinois keeps raising their taxes prepare for a mas Exodus of residents (not just the wealthy) If you can't afford to move sell all you have to a point you can move with one car. Or rent a truck with another family you know that is leaving. We here in Nebraska will welcome you...we have lots of jobs, way lower taxes, way lower cost of living and our traffic isn't full of angry Chicago drivers.
Tim October 09, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Lower taxes in Nebraska? How is 6.84% in Nebraska state income tax, lower than 5%? Illinois income tax? http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/state-taxes-nebraska.aspx The only way taxes are lower in NE, is if someone makes less than $17K/yr. Sounds like you should be spending more money on education, especially math.

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