SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Illinois Legislature has approved a historic plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion pension shortfall, considered the worst in the nation.
The House voted 62-53 Tuesday in favor of the plan, which the Senate approved just minutes earlier. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he will sign it.
Moments after Illinois lawmakers approved the major pension overhaul, leaders of the Quincy teachers union gathered to study their options.
"Seems like the legislators pushed this through so fast," said Valarie Bordenkircher, president of the Quincy Federation of Teachers.
Bordenkircher says the state union had been involved with previous negotiations with lawmakers that called for teachers to pay more for their pensions, but they had no input on this plan.
"They rushed this through without giving teachers an opportunity to speak more to legislators about this, disappointment is the only word I can think of at this moment," said Bordenkircher.
State Representative Norine Hammond and Senator John Sullivan both voted against the pension reform proposal.
Sullivan said it has serious constitutional issues and will have a negative impact on current state employees and retirees.
"We're not trying to punish in any way retirees or active employees of this state," says State Representative Jil Tracy.
However, Tracy voted yes.
She served on the pension reform committee that's been studying options for five months.
Tracy says the state can't afford not to make some drastic changes.
"We can not ignore that if we do nothing, we run a huge risk of making these systems insolvent, certainly unsustainable, and the instability of our state's fiscal health continues to deteriorate."
Lawmakers in the two Democrat-controlled chambers took up the plan after years of inaction on a problem that other states have addressed. It has damaged Illinois' credit rating and diverted key funds from schools and social service agencies.
Legislative leaders say the plan will save the state $160 billion over 30 years by cutting retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees.
Labor unions oppose the measure and say they plan to file a lawsuit arguing it's unconstitutional.
Commentary and reaction to the Illinois General Assembly's historic passage of pension reform legislation:
"Today, we have won. The people of Illinois have won. This landmark legislation is a bipartisan solution that squarely addresses the most difficult fiscal issue Illinois has ever confronted." -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
"This is no victory for Illinois, but a dark day for its citizens and public servants." -- We Are One Illinois coalition of unions representing public employees and retirees.
"We can't continue to be cemented into a stalemate. We cannot continue to be the embarrassment of the nation." -- state Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago
"If this legislation is found unconstitutional. We're out on a perch." -- state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale.
"The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities." -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
"Litigation is inevitable, and I hope that the courts issue an expedited ruling as to the constitutionality of the legislation. The sooner the better, so we can move our great state forward." -- Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
"This bill isn't perfect and it wasn't without compromise, but it was undoubtedly the right thing to do for the state and its citizens." -- Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.
"The message is this is not a one-sided bill. There will be changes here, much-needed changes, but this bill is a well thought out, well balanced bill that deserves the support of this body, the state Senate and the approval of Gov. (Pat) Quinn." House Speaker Michael Madigan.
"My concerns with this bill, is that there hasn't been any transparency." state Sen. Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington
"Manufacturers and businesses across the state needed a sign from Springfield that they are serious about turning the economic ship around in Illinois. This is a step in the right direction." -- Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association