Cullerton to Civic Committee: Turn your sights on GOP lawmakers opposed to pension ‘cost shift’

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To business leaders who think Illinois’ pension problems are so vast they now are “unfixable,” Senate President John Cullerton has two words.

Not so.

The Chicago Democrat released a statement Thursday afternoon that was critical of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which a day earlier took state lawmakers to task for lacking courage to fix the state’s $86 billion pension crisis and laid out four proposals to ease the fiscal crunch.

“Democratic leaders were poised to pass Civic Committee-approved pension fixes in May,” Cullerton said. “In fact, the Senate passed significant reforms to the State Employees’ Retirement System and their own pensions. And while the Civic Committee endorsed reforms that included asking local school districts and universities to pay their fair share of pension costs, Republican leaders still haven’t offered their support.

“The Civic Committee’s post-election condemnation on political courage would be more appropriate if it were directed to those leaders,” he said.

That provision Cullerton alluded to, commonly known as the cost shift, would enable the state to pass along pension costs for educators to downstate and suburban school systems, a Democratic idea that Republicans have belittled as a $20 billion property tax hike on their voters.

“Bipartisan pension reform is still my top priority. I invite the Civic Committee to work with me to encourage rather than discourage reform,” Cullerton concluded.

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