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Potential for Compromise on Pension Reform Unclear

The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Springfield Wednesday to try to resolve the state's pension crisis.
   
But, it's still unclear whether lawmakers will reach a solution.

 Everyone can agree on one thing: the state's $97 billion unfunded pension liability is a problem that needs to be addressed.
   
But, that's where the consensus ends.
   
"The only way Illinois is going to be able to crawl out of this financial hole is if we enact real pension reform," said Representative Thomas Morrison, a Republican from Palatine.
   
Forty-eight hours before lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Statehouse, a handful of Republicans join the non-partisan Illinois Policy Institute to push their own defined contribution plan to reform the state's pensions.
   
The proposal didn't gain enough traction to advance to the floor of either chamber for a vote during the spring session.
 
At the center of the Statehouse stalemate is a failure of the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to see eye-to-eye.
   
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton pushed their own plans for reform in the last few months.
   
Governor Quinn is calling on the pair to compromise, and put forward a bill combining both plans, during the special session this week.

A spokeswoman for Cullerton says he'll work to advance a compromise bill.
   
The House speaker refused to call it for a vote in his chamber during the spring session.
   
But, a representative for Madigan says he hopes Cullerton will lobby senators to pass his own  bill.
   
The Senate voted it down last month.
   
But, Madigan plans to call it in the House for debate this week.

Madigan's plan requires employees to contribute more to their own retirement: one percent in the first year and two percent thereafter.
   
It raises the retirement age for employees on a sliding scale, and it reduces cost-of-living increases.
   
Cullerton's union-backed proposal gives employees and retirees the choice of either maintaining their annual cost-of-living increases or receiving health insurance when they retire.

Madigan's plan is estimated to shave $21 billion off the almost $100 billion in unfunded liability.
   
Cullerton's proposal would save around $5 billion.

The Senate president plans to hold a hearing Tuesday on a proposal that would require university employees to pay more toward their pensions and receive annual increases tied to inflation.