SPRINGFIELD -- Supporters on Monday pulled the plug on a push to force the state's public sector workers to pay more for their pensions.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Minority Leader Tom Cross issued a joint statement Monday acknowledging the proposal lacked support to move forward in the waning hours of the spring legislative session.
The two leaders said they would hold hearings over the summer in hopes of resurrecting the idea in the fall.
"Our goal is to enact reforms to our pension systems that provide a long term solution for both those who are members of the pension systems and those who fund them," they said.
In addition to the two House leaders, the statement was signed by Tyrone Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which has pushed for the changes.
Opponents said forcing current employees to pay more to keep their current retirement plans or forcing them to take fewer benefits was either unconstitutional or would place too big of a burden on school teachers, prison guards or state university employees.
Legislation pending in the House would have required many members of the state's main pension systems to pay nearly 17 percent of their salaries into the retirement funds.
Those who don't want to pay more could take a cut in benefits or move into a 401(k)-style retirement plan, in which the state would contribute 4 percent of a salary.
The changes were designed to begin reducing the state's $80 billion unfunded liability.
Union groups spent millions of dollars fighting the legislation through an advertising campaign. Supporters of the change also have doled out big dollars trying to sway public opinion on the issue.
"In recent weeks hundreds of thousands of Illinois citizens have spoken out in an unprecedented way to defend the modest pensions earned by public employees. Today in Springfield their voices have been heard and the pension assault turned back," noted a statement issued by the labor union coalition.
Madigan and Cross said the fight wasn't over.
"We are absolutely committed to reforming Illinois' public pension system for current employees. It must be done to stabilize our systems and address long term financial issues for both the public employee pension systems and state government," the said.
State Rep. Adam Brown, R-Decatur, said he was happy with the decision to continue working on pension reform through the summer.
"It's an encouraging time because we have an opportunity to all folks involved to the table," Brown said.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, agreed more discussion was needed on the issue.
"We have to continue to try to move forward and discuss the issue, and we need to bring in not only the teachers, but our present employees, state universities, other individuals affected," Brady said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 512.