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Pension-reform bills advance in Senate, positioned for floor votes

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SPRINGFIELD-A pair of pension-reform proposals advanced in the Illinois Senate Wednesday, setting the stage for a possible floor votes.

A package designed to solve Illinois' $96 billion pension crisis and carried by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) passed the Senate Executive Committee by an 11-3 vote.

It is a two-pronged proposal designed to withstand an inevitable constitutional challenge by labor unions opposed to seeing their members' pension benefits diminished.

One facet of it would cap the salary upon which pensions could be based, suspends and cuts automatic 3-percent increases for current and future retirees, boosts employee pension contributions and requires the pension systems be fully funded by 2043.

The other piece of Cullerton's plan, which would take effect only if the other part is declared unconstitutional, would require current and retired government workers to accept either reduced cost-of-living increases or to give up state-subsidized health care.

The other plan to advance out of the Senate Executive Committee was pension legislation pushed by state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) that hikes the retirement age, postpones cost-of-living increases and boosts how much existing workers have withheld from their paychecks for pensions.

The Biss plan passed 11-4.

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