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Pension reform is still unlikely

The Illinois legislature meets in special session on Friday to address the pension crisis. The need to act is clear and urgent.

The state has at least $83 billion in unfunded liabilities, the worst in the nation. That’s because of the gold-plated benefits the state bestowed on employees, including compounding cost-of-living raises that can result in a worker getting paid more in retirement than he made while working.

Credit-rating agencies are clamoring for the state to reform benefits for existing employees — new hires will receive scaled back pensions — or risk having their ratings slashed.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for additional reforms.

The Democratic plan on the table doesn’t include teachers, and Republicans rightly are balking that it doesn’t go far enough.

Moreover, this is an election year following redistricting, which means all the seats in the House and Senate are up for grabs. Democrats in particular are skittish about incurring the ire of unions. They watched union supporters boo Gov. Pat Quinn at the state fair this week and call Illinois “the new Wisconsin.” They aren’t going to want such controversy marring their campaigns.

We hope we’re wrong, but consider: Legislators couldn’t agree to reforms during the weekslong spring session, so what are the chances they will be able to reach agreement in one day?