Ill. Assembly Called Back To Work On Pension Fund Shortfall

Another credit agency is downgrading Illinois after its lawmakers ended their session without addressing the state's $100 billion pension liability crisis. Now, Gov. Pat Quinn is calling the General Assembly back into session.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with pension problems for Illinois.

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MONTAGNE: The credit rating for the state of Illinois has taken another step closer to junk bond status. Illinois already had the lowest credit rating in the nation before it was downgraded again this week by Moody's and Fitch. The state legislature adjourned last week without addressing a $100 billion pension shortfall.

So as NPR's David Schaper reports, the governor is calling lawmakers back.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Illinois owes the pension funds for public employees just a massive amount of money.

MADELEINE DOUBEK: It's at least $100 billion, and it grows by $17 million every day.

SCHAPER: That's Madeleine Doubek with Reboot Illinois, a nonpartisan, digital and social media effort to engage citizens in solving state government woes. And Doubek blames state lawmakers.

DOUBEK: Their inaction was the equivalent of tying a 32,000-pound weight around the neck of every taxpayer in Illinois.

SCHAPER: Thirty-two thousand dollars is what Doubek says every Illinois taxpayer would have to shell out, to cover the pension shortfall and pay off a backlog of bills. Moody's cites the legislature's political paralysis in downgrading Illinois' credit rating, and that prompted Gov. Pat Quinn to call a special legislative session to begin June 19th.

GOV. PAT QUINN: This is an alarm bell for the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate, all the members of the legislature, to come together and get the job done. The job is, put a bill on desk so I can sign it into law.

SCHAPER: But Illinois' House and Senate, both controlled by Quinn's fellow Democrats, have very different pension reform plans, with no compromise in sight.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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