Illinois Special Session on Pensions May be Called

Gov. Pat Quinn hinted that lawmakers may be called to return to Springfield next month to attempt to deal with an overhaul of the state's public employee pension system.
by | July 19, 2012
 

By Monique Garcia, Chicago Tribune

Gov. Pat Quinn hinted Wednesday that lawmakers may be called to return to Springfield next month to attempt to deal with an overhaul of the state's public employee pension system.

The governor stopped short of saying he will call a special session but once again said he's tired of waiting. Lawmakers have spent much of the summer studying pension issues after they were unable to reach an agreement on changes during the spring session.

"I think we have studied the issue in June and July, and at the end of this month, the time for study is complete," Quinn said. "And now it'll be time for action. I don't think any legislators should plan to not be around in the month of August."

After months of clamoring for pension changes, Democrats and Republicans have reached a stalemate.

Each side accuses the other of stalling until after the November election, when it will be easier for lame-duck lawmakers to vote on a proposal. Waiting until then provides fodder for Republicans to attack Democrats for inaction, while Democrats can avoid angering the public employee unions they rely on for campaign support.

Quinn, who is not on the November ballot, has called on lawmakers to set aside political considerations, saying the state no longer can afford rising pension costs that leave less money for other priorities. Illinois' five employee retirement systems are underfunded by about $85 billion.

"We cannot have public pensions drowning out, squeezing out, the money we need for public safety, the money we need for our schools and our children, the money we need for our health care," Quinn said. "This is a fire bell in the night, and I don't want our legislators or anyone else to think that we're just going to drift through the summer and not do anything about it."

If Quinn calls a special session, lawmakers would be eligible for mileage and daily food and housing expenses.

(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune

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