It was a day for politics – not solutions. “Instead of focusing on issues important to the state of Illinois, the folks on both sides were focusing on getting re-elected rather than solving the issues,” said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock.
Expectations for the Friday’s special legislative session were low, and the General Assembly didn’t disappoint. For years, the state made pension promises to public sector employees, but failed to match those promises with dollars. That has left retirement systems serving state workers, university employees, elected officials and suburban and downstate teachers short on dollars to the tune of at least $83 billion. Under new accounting rules that will go into effect next year, that number will climb to more than $200 billion, and there are billions of dollars in retirement debt lurking at the local level, as well. Policy differences between Democrats and Republicans left both sides frustrated and unable to agree on any meaningful pension reforms. Even a face-saving move to cut Illinois legislative pensions failed. The House approved an amendment that would have reduced benefits for current lawmakers and ended pensions for future lawmakers. But the proposal captured only 54 votes, which isn’t enough to pass a bill, so the bill wasn’t called for a vote by its sponsor. The special session on pensions accomplished no discernible results.