Dynamo or dud. Lawmakers begin their annual two-week veto session Tuesday and could tackle major unresolved issues like pension reform, same-sex marriage and back pay owed to some state workers.
Or, the legislature could once again decide to put those issues off until another day, leaving Springfield in early November with little to show for their time back in session.
“I don’t know how productive it’s going to be,” said Sen. John Sullivan of Rushville, a member of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team. “I’ve heard some rumblings from leadership that this could be a time to really not do too much during the veto session. If that’s the attitude, then maybe none of this stuff moves and it’s a pretty quiet session. On the other hand, if we can get a breakthrough on some of these bigger issues, who knows?”
“I think there’s going to be a very light agenda,” said Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg. “I don’t think we will be looking at pensions. I don’t think gay marriage will come up. I’m voting on a deadly dull (session).”
Here’s where some of the issues stand heading into the veto session.
Just as it has been for months, pension reform remains on the lips of lawmakers as the No. 1 issue facing the state and one that must be addressed sooner rather than later.
And just as it has been for months, a clear solution to resolving the problem of ever-increasing state pension costs is nowhere to be seen.
A conference committee studying pension reform that was created in June has not yet come up with a plan that has the support of six of the committee’s 10 members. Five Democrats on the committee support a proposal that cuts annual cost-of-living adjustments to pension benefits, but also reduces employee contributions by one percentage point.
One Democrat feels the changes being discussed are too onerous for workers.
The four Republicans on the committee have balked at supporting the Democrats’ plan, in part because it will continue to consume a large amount of state revenue for years to come. They want additional savings by raising the retirement age, creating a 401(k)-style retirement plan and not reducing employee contributions.
Public employee unions oppose the latest proposal and want the House to take up a reform plan negotiated by the unions that was previously approved by the Senate. That plan had been backed by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, but he said recently he supports the latest reform ideas advanced by Democrats on the conference committee.