A pair of pension measures met success in the Illinois House yesterday ... a day after a Senate panel approved two other proposals. Supporters of overhauling the state's underfunded pension systems see it as a sign it could happen this spring.
It's the first time the House passed legislation that could have a significant impact on state employees' retirement benefits, as well as that of teachers and university workers. One measure caps the amount of salary a pension can be based on. The other raises the retirement age. House Democrats' point woman on pensions, Representative Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, says they're important milestones, but hinted that they won't become law in their current form.
"I don't know whether they're test votes or not. They're real votes. But they're not, they're not, I still think we have to put the whole package together in a way that hands the Supreme Court one piece of legislation to consider, and hand the Senate one piece of legislation to consider," says Nekritz.
A House committee did give bipartisan approval to a comprehensive pension package, it includes the salary cap and age increase, but it also requires workers to put more of their paychecks toward retirement, and it reduces their benefits.
On top of all that, the Senate is working on a similar plan -- and others. The jumble of measures may be an apt metaphor for the state of negotiations. Legislative solutions to Illinois' pension gap are whirling around, but there's no consensus. And unions - who say benefit reductions are unfair and illegal - continue to fight pension changes on all fronts.