(WGEM) -- The 98th Illinois General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday featuring 41 new members of the House and Senate.
And there's plenty of work to do for the new legislature.
There's many hot button issues like gun control and gay marriage, but Sen. John Sullivan says the state's pension crisis remains the most serious problem lawmakers face.
"It's a huge problem. It affects everything in the budget. It affects a lot of individuals. That underfunding of the pensions, that needs to be fixed first, and then there's so many of the other things that we're talking about whether it it's education funding, healthcare, whether its transportation needs, they're all tied together so that's why we need to come up with a solution," said Sen. Sullivan.
Sen. Sullivan, a Democrat from the 47th District, took the oath of office to begin his fourth term.
(AP) -- Gov. Pat Quinn says he believes a new crop of lawmakers will help the Legislature fix Illinois' $96 billion pension crisis.
Members of the new General Assembly took the oath of office Wednesday. Among them were dozens of lawmakers who were elected to the House or Senate for the first time.
Quinn says many of those legislators ran for office on a platform of pension reform. He says that should help "get the job done."
The previous General Assembly adjourned Tuesday without a pension deal.
Quinn says the Legislature must "work night and day" to fix the problem so bond rating agencies don't further downgrade the state's credit rating. Illinois already has the lowest rating of any state, making it more costly to issue bonds.
(AP) -- A newly inaugurated Illinois Senate has chosen John Cullerton president for another two-year term.
The 64-year-old Democrat from Chicago began his third term at the helm as the 98th General Assembly was sworn in Wednesday.
The November election delivered to Cullerton a 40-19 majority over Republicans. That's the most Democrats elected in the Illinois Senate in at least 120 years.
Cullerton's caucus members come not only from the Democratic stronghold of Chicago but from the far reaches of the state with varying philosophical ideas.
A lawyer and public defender, Cullerton has served in the Senate since 1991 after serving 12 years in the House.
Republican Sen. Christine Radogno was chosen as minority leader.
(AP) -- House Speaker Michael Madigan says Illinois' pension crisis remains the most serious problem lawmakers face.
The Chicago Democrat addressed newly-sworn in House members Wednesday at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Madigan says it's a "terribly contentious" issue because any reform would be a change to what workers had been promised.
House lawmakers adjourned the lame-duck session Tuesday without calling for a vote on pension-related legislation.
On pensions, Madigan also stressed the importance of addressing what's known as the "cost-shift," where the state picks up downstate and suburban school district retirement costs.
Madigan calls it a "free lunch" that needs to be addressed.
The issue was a sticking point on pension talks. Madigan said earlier that he was willing to set it aside temporarily to accomplish some pension overhaul.
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