Members of the Illinois legislature's conference committee on pensions will have a fun summer: trying to meet a tight deadline to solve a $100 billion problem. The idea of a conference committee is foreign to most current lawmakers, as Illinois has not had one in nearly a decade. But these days call for compromise: “I think that both chambers on May 31 thought that the pressure of the deadline would cause the other chamber to pass”the opposite chamber's bill," says State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who is one of the 10 members. “When that didn't happen, I think we both have now taken a step back and said, all right, we really have got to find a way to get through this, and it feels to me that there is a real commitment to do that.”

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Color Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) optimistic: “Now we have a conference committee, that the speaker has agreed to do, rather than just insist that we keep on voting on his bill, and that's a very positive step. So, now, with a conference committee, we'll have testimony, and see if we can reach an agreement.”

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) harbors little of that sentiment: “Everybody knows the issues,” he says. “There's nothing new. We've had blue-ribbon panels, we've had task forces, we've had summits, we've had backroom meetings, we've had out-in-the-open meetings, we've had committee hearings. There's nothing new here, so it can be done in the next couple of weeks if people want it to be done.”

Gov. Pat Quinn wants all of the work, including the legislature's final approval, done by July 9.

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