Democrats are unlikely to address Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension crisis until the state has a budget, despite a rare agreement between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton and calls from the governor to send him a bill “right away.”
Rauner announced last month that he’s backing a Cullerton plan to give workers a choice in retirement benefits as a way to chip away at Illinois’ $111 billion unfunded pension liability. He struck an optimistic tone in last week’s State of the State speech, calling it one of the most critical steps lawmakers can take to save taxpayers money.
But Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, says it will be even tougher than usual to pass pension legislation this year because of upcoming elections, opposition from labor unions, an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that declared a previous law unconstitutional and the ongoing state budget saga. A pension bill could be part of a broader deal between Rauner and majority Democrats on a budget and other issues, Cullerton said — a process that’s likely to take several months, if not longer.