SPRINGFIELD — Although Illinois' legislative leaders say they are close, there still is no final agreement on a plan to fix the state's underfunded pension systems.
With the clock ticking toward a possible showdown vote in the House on Tuesday, leaders in the House and Senate are expected to continue talking through the holiday weekend in an attempt to iron out the wrinkles in a problem that has vexed the General Assembly for years.
Although many of the parameters of a pension deal have been established, disagreement remains over a proposal to reduce the automatic cost-of-living adjustments given to retirees.
"There's still no agreement at this point," said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.
Retirees currently receive a 3 percent compounded cost-of-living adjustment each year. To reduce the size of the state's unfunded liability, the leaders are considering a plan that would lower the raises to half the rate of inflation. They also are considering a plan that would apply a COLA to only a part of their annual pension payout.
The potential change is seen as a linchpin in attempts to reduce the unfunded liability of the state's five pension systems by an estimated $150 billion over the next three decades. The goal is to leave the systems fully funded by 2043.
On Monday, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, signaled he thinks a deal can be done when he notified members of the House to be ready for a Dec. 3 return to the Statehouse.
But Cullerton has not followed suit.
"We're close," Phelon said Tuesday. "But there's not been a nod from everyone at the table yet."
There are areas of agreement that are expected to form a final package. In exchange for receiving a lower COLA in retirement, employees could see their retirement contribution lowered by one percentage point.
In addition, a plan to phase in an increase in the retirement age also is possible.
While the leaders meet behind closed doors or talk on private conference calls, state employees and retirees are taking their opposition public.
As part of an effort coordinated by the state's labor unions, workers are making personal visits to the offices of their local lawmakers, urging them to vote "no" if a pension overhaul is called for a vote next week.
"Workers and retirees are sending a very strong message that unconstitutional cuts of this scale are tantamount to stealing the life savings of public servants," American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union spokesman Anders Lindall said Tuesday.