Illinois Senate approves pension overhaul

May 9, 2013

  The Illinois Senate approved an overhaul of the state's pension systems Thursday. It comes one week after the Illinois House approved a more severe set of benefit cuts. As IPR’s Brian Mackey reports, the differences in those plans were at the heart of the debate:

 Senate President John Cullerton negotiated this latest proposal with several labor unions.  


Cullerton acknowledges his plan would save less money than the House proposal. But he says it's about as far as lawmakers can go without violating the Illinois Constitution, which says government pension benefits "shall not be diminished."

Several Republicans, like Sen. Matt Murphy from Palatine, had a simple answer for that: don't worry about it.

 "Don't get bogged down by these constitutionality arguments, because frankly we have a court for that."

 "You can't just say, 'Aw screw the Constitution, let's just proceed without it.'"

 Sen. Kwame Raoul is a Democrat from Chicago.While the Senate plan would save less money than the House proposal, Democratic Senators point out that there would be zero savings from a plan that's not capable of surviving a court challenge.

 The measure now goes to the House, where Speaker Mike Madigan, a Democrat,  says he remains committed to the other pension overhaul he pushed through his chamber last week.