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* Pensions – The Illinois Federation of Teachers told its members via e-mail late last night that its leaders believe a pension reform bill will surface this week. The teachers union claimed to its members that it has “offered to make compromises that would cost members more” and even said that its own proposal would “save the state billions of dollars.” However, the union’s leaders said in the blast e-mail that the governor and some lawmakers “continue to try and solve the problems they created by placing the entire pension burden on the backs of workers,” which it called “unfair and unacceptable.”

The last time pension reform was jammed through the General Assembly, back when a second tier was created for newly hired workers, the IFT was at the negotiating table with the Senate Democrats and thought it was close to a deal. Instead, the union’s offer was shunted aside and another bill was shoved down its throat. This time around, it appears that the governor and others may not even be listening to its proposed compromises.

Along those same lines, Illinois AFL-CIO President Mike Carrigan sent a letter to the governor’s chief pension negotiator last week complaining that the union coalition has heard from “a number of legislators” who’ve said they’d been told that labor is “boycotting” pension negotiations. “This is absolutely not true,” Carrigan wrote, claiming that the governor’s office is well aware that the unions have participated in every negotiation they’d been invited to attend. Tensions appear to be high.

On another pension front, House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced three new amendments to House Bill 3637 on Friday. Madigan, Gov. Pat Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton all support shifting the employer pension costs from the state and onto suburban and Downstate school districts. The amendments would fund the cost shift with money from the corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax. The PPRT is a local tax collected by the state and disbursed to school districts and municipalities. Only Chicago’s school district pays the employer portion of the pension contribution, which Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the other Democratic leaders have said is unfair.

Madigan’s Amendment 1 would take over $500 million in PPRT funds from non-Chicago schools and give it to the Teachers’ Retirement System. Amendment 2 would take $982 million from all municipal taxing districts outside Chicago and send it to the Teachers’ Retirement System. Amendment 3 would strip $1.4 billion from the fund and give it to TRS.

A Madigan spokesman said last night that the amendments were designed to bring people to the table “who aren’t currently engaged in the process.” Those amendments will get their attention, to say the least. Whether such a radical proposal can pass is doubtful, but Madigan always has something up his sleeve, so watch this space.

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