GOP lawmakers pitch new plan to trim Illinois pension debt

CHICAGO (AP) — Republican lawmakers are pitching a new idea they say would make a small dent in Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt.

Rep. Mark Batinick wants the Illinois House to hold hearings on a plan to offer employees nearing retirement a lump sum payment for a portion of their pension benefits, rather than an annuity.

Batinick said Thursday the “exchange option” won’t solve Illinois’ $111 billion pension crisis. But he says it would “move it in the right direction.”

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that 2013 legislation that cut public-employee pension benefits was unconstitutional. Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office said Wednesday she won’t appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Steve Brown, spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, declined to comment because he hasn’t seen the proposal.