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The Daily American - West Frankfort, IL
  • Gov. Quinn says pension reforms need to happen in the near future

  • SPRINGFIELD— Gov. Pat Quinn repeated Friday that legislators must still pass pension reforms and pass them soon.


    Just how that will happen, Quinn didn’t say.


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  • Gov. Pat Quinn repeated Friday that legislators must still pass pension reforms and pass them soon.
    Just how that will happen, Quinn didn’t say.
    At a Statehouse news conference Friday, Quinn said he will meet with legislative leaders next week to see if agreement can be reached on a reform package. If so, lawmakers will be summoned back at some point soon to deal with it.
    “We must get this done as soon as possible,” Quinn said.  “The ratings agencies are poised to decide upon our work.”
    Quinn also repeated his criticism of a gambling expansion bill approved late Thursday because it lacks a ban on campaign contributions from gambling interests.
    However, he didn’t directly answer a question about whether he would veto the bill when it reaches his desk.
    He also sidestepped a question about whether he’s softened his opposition to slot machines at horse racing tracks, another provision of the expansion bill.
    Quinn said all spring that lawmakers had to tackle both pension reform and Medicaid changes or the state faced a potential double downgrade in its bond rating. 
    Illinois already has the worst credit rating in the nation by some measures.  A further downgrade would make it more difficult and costly for the state to sell bonds.
    “The most important reform we have to do, the reform of our lifetime as far as I’m concerned, is pension reform,” Quinn said.  “It is important to know we are racing the clock.”
    However, Quinn did not give a specific deadline for reforms must pass.  Nor did he offer any suggestions about how a compromise might be reached.
    House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has insisted that pension costs for downstate teachers be shifted to local school districts and away from the state. 
    Since local districts award contracts on which teacher pensions are based, they should be the ones bearing the cost, not the state, he said.
    House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, believes shifting those costs will impose further financial hardships on local districts and possibly force them to raise property taxes.
    Quinn supported that cost-shifting idea throughout the spring session, but abruptly asked Madigan to drop it last week.
    Quinn insisted Friday that he still believes in the “core principle of accountability” for pensions by school districts, and he thinks most lawmakers do, too.
    “It’s how to implement that principle,” he said.
    Quinn dismissed the idea that lawmakers don’t want to make changes to public employee pensions during an election year.
    “I don’t think that was a decisive factor,” Quinn said.  “I think most legislators understood the pension challenge cannot be deferred.”
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