The group of lawmakers working on pension reform is focused on a new outline of ideas aimed at bringing the state's $100 billion pension monster to heel, but what's not in the plan may prove as interesting as what is in it.
Under the outline, the state would cut back the cost-of-living increases that are driving much of the retirement system shortfall but require workers to actually pay less toward their pensions. Missing from the outline was a long-debated requirement offering retirees a choice between keeping health insurance or taking a smaller pension increase each year. There also would be no increase in the retirement age. And there would be no limits on how much of an employee's salary could be counted toward a pension. Negotiators were quick to note that these are simply ideas under discussion after weeks of closed-door meetings and that there's no firm timetable for a proposal or a vote. "We don't know where we'll land," said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the pension committee. The two biggest voices will be Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Chicago Democrats whose failure to compromise on a pension fix left the Statehouse at loggerheads since the end of spring session in May. The estimated savings from the sparse details that emerged over the weekend is about $145.6 billion — less than the long-stated estimate that Madigan's proposal would save $187 billion but more than the projected $57.6 billion savings of Cullerton's plan.