Thursday, November 04, 2010

Senate again skips pension borrowing vote

By Jamey Dunn

Although the Illinois Senate returned today to discuss a $4 billion pension borrowing plan, legislators failed to take a vote on the issue.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said she saw no reason for the Senate to be in legislative session today because the situation surrounding the bill had not changed. She said she thought it was a waste of money to bring lawmakers back to Springfield. “I think it’s unfortunate that we’re here.”

Some Republicans supported a similar borrowing plan last fiscal year to make the state’s required pension payment, but Radogno said they will not consider backing it again this year until they see evidence of cuts and reforms to the budgeting process.

Senate President John Cullerton said the face-to-face negotiation that can come out of bringing the chamber together was a positive aspect of having a session day. He also reiterated the need for bipartisan support on the bill.

Cullerton said he wants to work in coming weeks with Republicans to pinpoint some cuts that can be agreed on, and he hopes to pass the borrowing during the legislature's veto session, which begins November 16.

In the meantime, state pension systems are selling off assets to make benefit payments. Steve Zahn, a lobbyist for the State University Retirement System (SURS), said SURS and the Illinois State Board of Investment, which make up about 40 percent of the state retirement system, would have to sell off an estimated $2.3 billion in assets if the state cannot find a way to make its payment.

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