Illinois Senate OKs union-backed pension deal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Senate has approved a union-supported bill to deal with the nation's worst state pension problem. The move leaves lawmakers with two competing proposals just weeks before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn.

The Senate voted 40-16 Thursday to advance the measure sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton.

The Chicago Democrat's plan would give workers and retirees a choice in retirement benefits. He says it's the only approach to solving Illinois' nearly $100 billion pension crisis that will hold up in court.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan prefers a plan he says would save the state three times more money.

Public-employee unions have said they'll file a lawsuit if Madigan's bill passes. They say it violates a clause in the state constitution that says pension benefits can't be reduced.

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