Illinois Pension Crisis: No Deal As Talks Between Lawmakers Hit Stumbling Block

In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a "Pension Promise" sign is seen as Illinois state union members and supporters rally in support
In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a "Pension Promise" sign is seen as Illinois state union members and supporters rally in support for fair pension reform in the at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Ill. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced what could be a significant advance on pension reform, saying the powerful House speaker was willing to forgo the dicey issue of teachers retirement costs in order to fix the worst-in-the-nation pension deficit. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Despite a hopeful breakthrough in the Illinois pension crisis, legislative leaders ended talks Saturday without a deal.

"There's no resolution today. We're going to continue to work throughout the weekend and right through Tuesday of next week to try and move legislation that will solve this funding problem of Illinois pension systems," State House of Representatives Speaker Michael Madigan said to reporters following the meeting.

Gov. Pat Quinn and four legislative leaders met for two hours in Chicago and according to the Associated Press, reached a better understanding of each party's position. Still, major obstacles remain before Quinn, Madigan, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno can reach an accord.

Called the "worst-in-nation" pension crisis, the state's pension system is running $96.8 billion short, reports the Tribune. The debt has piled up from what the AP calls "decades of inattention" to saving and years of legislatures and governors skipping payments altogether.

Madigan wanted to slowly shift the pension burden for each school system onto its local school districts, reports Reuters, while Republicans rebuffed the idea for fear it could send property taxes skyrocketing.

Other steps to fully fund the system within 30 years face a constitutionality hurdle—if they even pass among legislative leaders. Legislators discussed steps like upping worker contributions, raising retirement ages and limiting cost-of-living adjustments for retirees. However, according to the state constitution, pension and retirement rights are considered a "contractual relationship, the benefits of which
shall not be diminished or impaired."

The clock runs out on the current General Assembly on Wednesday. In the current lame-duck session, many hoped hot-button issues like same-sex marriage and gun control would be voted on in addition to pension reform, but both measures have stalled after hitting recent stumbling blocks.