With the deadline ticking down to his state's own version of a fiscal cliff, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he still feels optimistic pension reform can take place in a timely fashion.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Quinn told reporters Thursday that he feels state leaders can get their act together and manage to come up with a solution to the state's embattled public pension program - which boasts the worst funded status in the continental United States, a $96 billion deficit.
But Quinn, who set an arbitrary Jan. 9 deadline for a long-anticipated and much-delayed set of revisions to the state's pension system, is hampered by the fact that state lawmakers don't seem to be able to even come to consensus on when they'll be back at work.
House and Senate leaders were supposed to be back on the job on Jan. 2, in advance of Jan. 9 - when new elected officials will be sworn in and the slate is wiped clean on legislative projects, but now it looks as though the Senate will only be in session Jan. 2 through the 4th.
"I feel that in that three-day period, we can accomplish a lot," Quinn told reporters. "We have made some good progress, I think, in discussions on the pension reform. I think we're narrowing the differences. We have to work hard at that and I'm optimistic that we can get a plan that can get a good vote in both houses and get this behind us."
Those plans still vary widely between the two parties, and neither plan is said to fully help repair the ever-deepening deficit.
The Democrats are pushing lawmakers and state employees to accept lower cost-of-living increases in order to maintain their health insurance and still have salary increases included in their final pension calculations - a move the Senate president says could save $31 billion, but critics say does not address the pension costs of judges, teachers or university employees.
Other leaders have floated a plan that would require employees to kick in an additional 2 percent of their income to the pension fund, raise the retirement age and also limit cost-of-living increases. That plan is thought to cut the pension deficit by a third, though some argue that it would not be constitutional.