Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Cullerton to Madigan: Consider union plan

Senate President John Cullerton said today that his negotiations with union leaders have produced a pension proposal that lawmakers in both chambers should consider.

Giving no details of the plan, Cullerton released a statement announcing a deal this afternoon.

UPDATE: Cullerton said this afternoon that he has not yet reached a final agreement with union leaders. But he says they have presented him a “substantial proposal” that his caucus will consider along with House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan, if it passes Thursday.

“We're not finished talking to them. We might want to make some proposed changes to their proposal. We just got it today,” Cullerton told reporters. “What's significant is that they're supportive of a major bill that saves billions of dollars, which I would say they've never been before. So that's a major move. There's still some details to work out.” Cullerton said the union's plan is based on the concept that workers must be offered something in exchange for pension cuts. He has maintained that without such a trade, any bill that reduces retirement benefits would be unconstitutional. “Since it's not unilateral cuts, it doesn't save as much money, but it's billions of dollars,” he said of the union proposal. 

When asked if he would call Madigan's bill, Cullerton said he would consult his members. “We’re going to hopefully see what the caucus wants to do, whether they want to support that bill, or the bill that the unions are supportive [of] or a combination thereof.” He noted that the Senate has already rejected a bill similar to the one the House plans to vote on Thursday. “We’ll see if this has any differences that get more people to be supportive, but you know, it’s not like we haven’t voted on this already," Cullerton said. 

“Since the beginning of session, I have made it clear that enacting constitutional pension reform is my top priority. Illinois faces a crisis; we owe it to our children and grandchildren to take action,” Cullerton said in a written statement about the union proposal. “I have worked to build consensus for reform within my caucus and across the diverse factions on both sides of the aisle. In these pension discussions, I have expressed a preference for the framework that, in my view, has the best chance of holding up in court. I have also worked to include labor in these conversations. Today, I concluded a series of meetings with representatives of teachers, nurses, police officers and other public employees. This coalition of labor leaders offered a credible and constitutional plan for consideration.”

The House is expected to vote on a pension plan tomorrow. Cullerton believes that proposal is unconstitutional. Both Madigan and the bill’s other sponsor, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, were optimistic about the possibility of the bill passing in the House tomorrow.

However, Cullerton urged lawmakers in both chambers to consider the plan he says he has worked out with the unions. “Because inaction is not an option, I believe that it is appropriate to begin discussing this plan with the members of my caucus and with the speaker of the House. It’s important that we advance a credible solution to our pension problems.”

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