Senate defeats pension bill opposed by unions

Senate defeats pension bill opposed by unions

SPRINGFIELD — A more severe public pension reform bill, opposed by labor unions, was overwhelmingly defeated Thursday night in the Illinois Senate.

The 16-42 defeat of SB 1, which had been pushed by House Speaker Michael Madigan as the pension reform bill that saved more money, means that lawmakers still have no solution to resolving the state's $100 billion pension problem with only a day to go in the spring legislative session.

Among East Central Illinois senators, only Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, voted for the bill. No votes came from Democratic Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign and Republicans Chapin Rose of Mahomet, Dale Righter of Mattoon and Jason Barickman of Bloomington.

Overall, only six of 40 Democrats supported the bill and 10 of 19 Republicans.

"I'd say there was strong bipartisan opposition to this bill," said Frerichs. "Only half of the Republicans voted for this bill. After much talk from the leaders all year, even their rank-and-file members realized that this is likely an unconstitutional bill."

Frerichs said the best pension reform option remaining is SB 2404, which already has passed the Senate but has not been voted on in the House. It is sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton and is supported by organized labor.

"I think both of my representatives, and they are bipartisan, have said they would like to have a chance to vote on it," Frerichs said, referring to Reps. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, and Chad Hays, R-Catlin.

"If we're serious about doing something this year and this session, the best option, which will save a lot of money and most likely be found constitutional, is the Senate bill that we passed," Frerichs said.

Barickman said the vote "is reflective that this is much ado about politics and not about pension reform at the moment."

He said "all indications suggest" SB 2404 would pass the House.

"We're at the point now where I wouldn't be surprised if they called 2404 anymore than if they had us adjourn with doing nothing," Barickman said. "And there's always the possibility of a brand new reform bill that is dropped on us out of the blue."

SB 1, which earlier this month passed the House 62-51, was praised in debate Thursday by Republican leaders. Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont called it "the only bill that will save the pension system."

But Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago called the legislation "a breach of contract," and Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, said it would "cheat the people who you made promises to."

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