That didn't happen.
Lawmakers voted on a handful of test amendments to reform Illinois'
five pensions and possibly chip away at the state's $130 billion
pension debt, but none passed.
The three proposals received a few yes votes; one plan received
State Rep. Elaine Nekrtiz, D-Northbrooke, who had to carry the
doomed proposals, defended the attempts.
"Engaging members ... is a very serious way of trying to stress
the component parts of a solution, and the depths that we have to go
to in order to address the crisis."
Nekrtiz floated ideas that would have eliminated all
cost-of-living adjustments for public retirees until Illinois'
pension systems have 80 percent of the money they need. She also
tried to get support for plans that would have raised the retirement
age to 67 and have public workers pay 5 percent of their retirement
costs. All failed.
"The House forcefully rejected unfair, unconstitutional pension
cuts today," the We Are One Illinois coalition said in a statement.
The coalition is made up of Illinois' largest public employee
unions, including the American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees; the Illinois Federation of Teachers; the
Illinois Education Association; and the state's AFL-CIO chapter.
"Lawmakers should build on this momentum to abandon tired
approaches and work with us on serious, coalition-endorsed
legislation," the statement said.
[to top of second column]
"None of it was really real. We all knew it was fake," Cross said
during a speech from the House floor. "The politics of the past 10
years haven't worked."
Cross said instead of a phony debate over a few ideas, he'd
rather sit down with the four legislative leaders and the governor
and strike a deal.
"Quit the BS, get a (plan) with 60 votes here, 30 votes in the
Senate, and send it to the governor," Cross said. "We're ready to
get it done."
"When Leader Cross spoke, that removed much of the need for a lot
of debate," said state Rep. Mike Zalweski, D-Chicago.
"We now know what can't pass. So let's move on to what will
pass," Zalewski said as he explained why he only voted for a Rhode
Island-style cost-of-living freeze. "Extremes force people to the
middle to negotiate."
But was it all a diversion?
Chris Mooney, a political science professor at the University of
Illinois at Springfield, says he's not sure if the pension debate
was a game, or part of a game plan.
"We always assume (Speaker Mike Madigan) has a plan," Mooney said
about the powerful House speaker. "The speaker is the smartest guy
on the room, and he's beaten me on this one. I don't understand why
he's doing this."
Zalewski said he didn't want to talk for Madigan, but said the
speaker probably wanted lawmakers who have voted on few pension
reform plans to think "about pensions in a different way."
Watchdog; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]