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Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had reason to celebrate Thursday when his COLA bill passed the House. | AP file photo

UPDATED...
With reporting by Dave McKinney

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois House voted Thursday to limit compounding annual cost-of-living increases for state retirees in a constitutionally questionable move targeting the largest driver of the state's $97 billion pension crisis.

The Senate-bound measure, sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), passed the House on a 66-50 roll call and would affect current and retired state workers, university employees, legislators and downstate and suburban teachers. Judges weren't included.

Under the measure, current and future public employees would have to wait until age 67 or five years after retirement to begin collecting annual increases on retirement benefits. Public employees' annual cost-of-living increases would be capped at a compounding, 3-percent on the first $25,000 of their retirement annuities. Retirement income greater than $25,000 would increase by a flat $750 per year.

"This single benefit is the most expensive single component of the pension systems," said Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who presented the measure on the House floor. "As painful as it is we will never get the increasing pension costs under control if we don't address [the COLA's]."

fire_madigan_dog_tshirt.jpegCLEARWATER, FL - If a Republican wins the Illinois governorship in 2014, might he or she have some explaining to do to House Speaker Michael Madigan?

The state GOP has made "Fire Madigan" a central part of its 2012 political messaging, even debuting a new website Monday that has everything from coffee mugs to golf shirts to dog tee-shirts for sale, all emblazoned with the party's anti-Madigan credo.

"Everybody needs to buy them," state GOP chief Pat Brady told Illinois delegates attending the Republican National Convention. "They'll be the hottest, trendiest thing in the state of Illinois in the next four years."

There's no question the idea could make the party a buck (the most expensive item appears to be a $34.99 hoodie) and is memorable, but that could part of its problem.

Madigan, once nicknamed the Velvet Hammer, is the top powerbroker in Springfield and is known to have the most institutional knowledge and longest political memory of anyone when it comes to slights and grudges.

In other words, Madigan can make life miserable for any governor. Just ask Rod Blagojevich, whose clashes with Madigan were legendary. As a result, Blagojevich's batting average in getting things passed the Illinois House stood somewhere below his weight. That doesn't even take into account that Madigan led the charge to impeach Blagojevich.

16081241H26922957.jpegHouse Speaker Michael Madigan reported another $100,000 in contributions from SEIU Thursday following last week's collapse of a pension-reform deliberations that would have impacted a few thousand of the union's public-sector employees.

Friends of Michael J. Madigan, the speaker's personal political fund, reported receiving a $50,000 contribution from the SEIU Healthcare Illinois committee and another $50,000 donation from the SEIU Illinois Council fund.

A top union source told the Sun-Times Thursday that money actually was given to Madigan in late July, well before last Friday's special legislative session when the speaker presided over his chamber's failure to pass anything that would help cure Illinois' $83 billion pension crisis. Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn blamed Republicans for inaction on pensions.

Earlier this week, the state Republican Party condemned the union for engaging in a "quid pro quo" with the speaker when the Madigan-run Democratic Majority reported receiving $97,000 in SEIU donations last Friday, the same day as the special session on pensions.