Michael "Irish Cruse" Madigan reverses course, paves way for pension reform and cuts
SPRINGFIELD — As lawmakers head toward adjournment Thursday night, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan paved the way for a comprehensive government worker pension reform plan by dropping his demand that suburban and Downstate school districts pay more toward teacher retirement.
The announcement late Wednesday night capped a contentious day at the Capitol that included a faceoff between the powerful Democratic speaker from Chicago and House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego. The two exchanged verbal jabs over controversial issue of shifting pension costs from the state to local taxpayers. Tensions over Madigan’s insistence on the shift and Cross’ opposition bled over to other issues, including the state budget.
Madigan said he still believes that the shift in costs, estimated at more than $20 billion over three decades, should occur so that local school boards would bear more responsibility for increasing educators’ pensions. But Madigan said that Gov. Pat Quinn wanted Democratic leaders to back away from the provision if it stood in the way of major pension reform this spring.
“I was surprised that the governor disagreed with me on the issue. He agrees with you. He agrees with the Republicans. He thinks that we ought to remove the issue of the shift of normal cost out of the bill,” Madigan told the House. “I disagree with the governor, but he is the governor. This is his request.”
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