Chicago Sun-Times
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Harmon says special session to fix pension mess not likely

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SPRINGFIELD-A special session to solve Illinois' $97 billion pension crisis looks unlikely with just hours remaining in the Legislature's regular session, according to one top Senate Democrat.

"We've been taken hostage before. It doesn't ever work out terribly well," said Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), a member of Senate President John Cullerton's (D-Chicago) leadership team.

While a Democratic House member had minutes earlier called on Gov. Pat Quinn to call a special session of the General Assembly until pension reform is passed, Harmon indicated the problem would now be left in the hands of legislative leaders.

"I have no doubt that if we were to adjourn that discussions would continue beyond adjournment," he said.

The Senate Thursday overwhelmingly defeated a bill championed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and has passed its own version of pension reform touted by Cullerton. But Madigan has yet to call Cullerton's bill for a vote in the House.

"There's a bill in the House right now. I'm not sure what there is for the Senate to do right now," Harmon said. "I think we have fairly clearly laid out the options."

Harmon was hesitant to pin all the blame on Madigan for not passing pension reform, but he made it clear that the two chambers may still be far from an agreement.

"They take fundamentally different approaches," he said of the two competing plans. "There is a principal, intellectual disagreement as to the path to pension reform."

"We've made great progress. We're not done yet. If you look back in a year or two people will understand how difficult this was."

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