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Madigan Drops Plan to Shift Pension Costs to School Districts

Under pressure from Illinois Republicans and Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan announced he's dropping his proposal to shift teacher pension costs to local school districts.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) on Wednesday dropped his controversial proposal to shift the costs of teacher pensions from the state to local school districts, universities and community colleges.

The announcement came after two days of spirited debate over pension reform in both the House and Senate.

Madigan's plan, which was part of Senate Bill 1673, was widely criticized by Republicans, and threatened to derail other legislation to address the state's massive pension shortfall.

Madigan said he reached the decision after Gov. Pat Quinn asked him to drop the amendment, the Associated Press reports.

“He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the issue of the shift of normal cost out of the bill,” Madigan told the House on Wednesday night. “I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor. This is his request.”

Quinn's request was a shift from his previous position. Jerry Stermer, the governor's budget director, told Illinois Statehouse News that "forcing school districts and colleges to pay employees' retirement benefits is the responsible thing to do" since school boards negotiate teachers' pay.

Stermer added that the governor would support anything that could fix the state's unfunded pension liability.

The bill was handed over to House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who slammed Madigan on Tuesday, calling his proposal a "poison pill" to kill pension legislation.

Plans to remove Madigan's amendment will be considered by a House Panel on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Illinois currently has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability—$44 billion of which is from the Teachers' Retirement System.

With the cost-shift language off the table, lawmakers could vote on a comprehensive pension reform plan before the legislative session ends Thursday night.

Before Wednesday's announcement, . 

Business manager Harold Huang estimated it could cost District 122 aout $1.6 million this year, and he asked board members and the public to write New Lenox Rep. Renee Kosel and Sen. Christine Radogno in opposition of the proposal. 

"They're trying to pass the buck," Huang said of the state. "We believe it won’t be good for our property taxpayers. If it hits we will need to make cuts and increase property taxes."

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Marie June 01, 2012 at 12:24 PM
A gradual shift to the local districts should take place. The districts and boards in this state have been passing the buck for years now with unreasonably high and unwarranted compensation packages given to administrators without any concern of the impact on all the taxpayers in this state. THAT is passing the buck.
Summer June 01, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Where is the other 39 billion dollars in unfunded pension liability ??? Maybe the politicians should also look at their pensions?? Also, why are teachers the ones to be the scapegoats of the state? The politicians have already "borrowed" millions out of the teacher retirement funds to pay their bills and say that they don't have to pay it back but the teachers have to work to restore those funds. So sad how this state is ran.
lala June 01, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Does the clerical staff and bus drivers get this pension as well?
Lou June 03, 2012 at 04:35 PM
No the clerical staff I know do not. In the district I work in, they barely make poverty level pay and they pretty much run the school. And the teachers are made to be the scapegoats. How would the general public like the state to take all the money they have in their pensions? And the teachers in the elementary schools, even after many years of service do not make the money or the pensions that administrators can make. But they are given all those "extras" from the school boards who think they know everything about what goes on in their own districts. Half of them know only the basics, but still make the important decisions that the teachers have to live with and the taxpayers too! The system needs some kind of checks and balances with the teachers getting more imput. But that would be in a perfect world! :(

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