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Fox Valley reps push for pension bill vote

Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross R-Oswego front prepares testify during House committee hearing Illinois State Capitol Monday Jan. 7

Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, front, prepares to testify during a House committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, in Springfield Ill. The long-awaited plan to address Illinois' $96 billion pension problem cleared an early hurdle as the Illinois House committee approved a proposal that freezes cost-of-living increases and calls for higher employee contributions. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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Updated: February 9, 2013 6:18AM

SPRINGFIELD — Two Fox Valley legislators Monday pushed a pension plan toward a vote in the House, but it’s not clear if that vote will take place.

The House’s newest pension plan was supported Monday by Reps. Darlene Senger of Naperville and Tim Schmitz of Batavia, both members of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. The pension package advanced out of the committee by a 6-3 vote.

The move positioned the legislation, aimed to solve the state’s $95 billion pension crisis, for a full House vote Tuesday, said Senger.

The Illinois Senate has been called back for a 3 p.m. session Tuesday, she said. Lawmakers will be sworn in for the next legislative session on Wednesday.

“Right now, I don’t really know (the bill’s chances of passing),” Senger said Monday night. “But I’m optimistic.”

“We have one more day — tomorrow,” she said of this legislative session. “But the last minute vote doesn’t mean it was last minute thought through.”

Senger, a Republican, said that the cost shifting of some pension costs to local school districts was removed from the bill in a compromise between Gov. Pat Quinn and House Leader Tom Cross, a Republican from Oswego. That would have been a deal breaker for Republicans, Senger said.

This pension solution has been three years in the making, she said.

“The problem is that right now the unfunded liability — the difference between assets going in and benefits going out — is so insurmountable,” Senger said. “The only way we can get this to work is to do what we’ve just done with this bill.”

Schmitz, also a Republican, said that there has been a lot of talk about supporting pensions in different bills.

“But this bipartisan bill must move forward,” Schmitz said from the House floor Monday.

Pension reform is direly needed, Senger said.

“This is a major problem and if we don’t solve something, our bond rate will tank, and cuts will be made to education and human services because pensions are devouring everything else,” she said.

The bill’s lead House sponsor, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said the choice is clear.

“The time is now to end the excuses and say yes to reform for our pension systems and to long overdue relief for our great state,” Nekritz said.

Of the nine-member Personnel and Pension Committee, six state legislators voted for the bill: Nekritz; Senger; Schmitz; Daniel Biss, an Evanston Democrat; Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat; and Karen May, a Highwood Democrat. Three voted against the bill moving forward: Daniel Burke, a Chicago Democrat; Raymond Poe, a Springfield Republican; and Thomas Morrison, a Palatine Republican, according to Schmitz.

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