Adding to the drama, the two votes came just moments apart, capping hours of debate.
The votes topped one of the most dramatic Springfield showdowns in memory, a day when the power of Gov. Pat Quinn and the legislative leaders is put to the test as they try to muscle through a complex and controversial fix to Illinois’ $100 billion pension crisis.
With the Statehouse shrouded in fog, the day began with three of the four legislative leaders appearing jointly before a bipartisan, House-Senate panel that late Monday signed off on a 327-page bill bitterly opposed by a coalition of the state’s most powerful labor organizations.=
The complex and controversial fix to Illinois pension crisis passed in the Illinois Senate on a 30-24 vote. The House passed the measure on a vote of 62-53.
Now the measure heads to the governor’s desk for final approval.
During debate before the senate vote, Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago) blasted the bill as “morally wrong, morally corrupt.”
He also said the bill will “punish retired teachers, the janitor, the woman who serves lunch to your child in school.”
Before the vote, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, spoke from the floor saying “We all know something’s gotta be done….We can’t go on dedicating so much of our resources to this one sector of pensions.”
The Senate was poised to follow suit later in the day in order to get the legislation to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.
The legislation agreed to by Quinn and the legislative leaders, including Madigan, state Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, state Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, would curtail annual, compounding 3 percent cost-of-living increases received by retired state workers, Downstate and suburban teachers and university employees, slowing the growth of their future annuities.
The deal — expected to save $160 billion over 30 years and reduce annual pension payments by as much as $1.5 billion — also would hike retirement ages for younger workers and force some of them to go as many as five years without a post-retirement increase in their pensions.
The “reason we’re here today … is because the Illinois pension systems are just too rich to be afforded as the state goes forward,” Madigan said earlier in the day.
In return, existing government employees would have less withdrawn from their paychecks to cover pension premiums, and four of the five state retirement systems covered under the 327-page bill would get new powers to sue the state if it ever skipped or shorted making annual pension payments.
Opponents, including powerful labor organizations, have argued that the bill tries to fix the system on the backs of state workers.
Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery called the plan “theft” and “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“It only makes one thing certain: that we’ll be back here again after we see the bill struck down by the courts,” he said.
The legislators’ votes Tuesday will carry enormous implications as Illinois heads into the 2014 campaign season.
Democrats, particularly Quinn, are banking on passage of the pension legislation to feed a narrative that they hope to sell to voters that the party has been able to tackle the state’s most serious problems, even if it meant alienating one of its most enduring and powerful allies: organized labor.