Already featuring the lowest bond rating of any state in the nation, the Illinois legislature adjourned on Friday without addressing the $100 billion public employee pension shortfall that threatens the state's bond rating and its ability to issue bonds at all.
The problem is not with Republicans, who are in the minority. It is rival Democrats who are holding the state hostage until at least the fall when lawmakers will come back and try to deal with the crisis.
Late Friday, the legislature did manage to complete passage of a $35.4 billion general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The budget passed over the objections of Republican lawmakers who contended the plan locked in increased spending that would force the state to stop the scheduled partial roll back of a big income tax rate increases in 2015.
But on the big issue of the legislative session - pensions -the state's two most powerful legislative leaders showed no apparent effort at compromise on positions they had held for weeks. The bill Madigan sponsored opts for unilateral cuts in retirement benefits for current and retired state workers, teachers, legislators, and college and university employees to reap the maximum cost savings.
Madigan's bill, which the unions have vowed to challenge in court on constitutional grounds, would immediately reduce the state's unfunded liability by $21 billion, according to actuarial analyses by the state's pension funds.
Cullerton, meanwhile, was pushing a bill passed by his chamber that would generally allow workers to retain access to state-sponsored healthcare in retirement if they opt for pension concessions.
Cullerton's plan, which has the backing of public labor unions, would shave the state's nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability by only $9.13 billion.
Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has kept a low profile throughout the legislative session. He issued a statement decrying the failure to pass a major pension bill.
"This is wrong," Quinn said. "I will call the legislative leaders together in the coming week to forge a comprehensive pension reform agreement."
Good luck with that, Guv. Michael Madigan and Tom Cullerton - both Chicago Democrats - have made it personal. And with the state already spending more than $8 billion a year on pension funds, a solution is going to have to be found despite their rivalry or even more businesses will leave the state fearing future tax increases that are already some of the highest business taxes in the country.