Gov. Pat Quinn said Illinois lawmakers have a chance to make history on two fronts this month by approving a plan to fix the state's decades-old pension crisis and legalizing same-sex marriage.
The Chicago Democrat said both issues, along with a gun control measure restricting high capacity ammunition magazines, are among his top priorities before lawmakers' scheduled May 31 adjournment.
"There's nothing more that government can do to help jobs and economic growth than for the Legislature to put a comprehensive public pension bill on my desk by the end of this month," he told members of the City Club of Chicago on Monday. "If we don't buckle down and focus on pension reform, we will truly regret it."
Lawmakers are considering two pension proposals from House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
Madigan's plan, which the House passed and Quinn backs, would require employees to chip in 2 percent more toward retirement benefits, raise the retirement age for some and reduce annual cost-of-living increases.
Cullerton's proposal, which sailed through the Senate, would offer employees a choice between health insurance or cost-of-living increases. He says it would survive a court challenge.
Quinn said Monday that the Cullerton bill "needs improvement" but didn't elaborate.
Also in the works, but not in either bill so far, is a plan to make universities, community colleges and school districts pay their own retirement costs that Illinois currently shells out. Quinn has previously campaigned hard for the so-called cost shift but he said Monday that it wasn't necessary to address the state's roughly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability.
"That's part of the equation as well," he told reporters after the breakfast event. "The cost shift is not in the bills that have already passed. The bills that have passed are more than enough to do the job."
Quinn reiterated that he doesn't want to see a gambling bill before a pension bill. He has twice vetoed plans that would add more casinos, including one in Chicago, over ethical concerns.
"For those legislators who are enamored with the shiny object of expanding gaming that has to wait until we get to the import priority of pension reform done," he said.
Illinois lawmakers also are considering a proposal that could make Illinois the 13th state to allow same-sex marriage. The Senate passed the plan on Valentine's Day, and it faces tough reception in the House. But Quinn says he believes the votes are there.
The governor was mum on whether he'll sign a bill that legalizes the medical use of marijuana, saying it requires a full review and he's "open minded."
The Senate on Friday approved the plan that would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients who have certain terminal illnesses or debilitating medical conditions. It awaits his signature before it can take effect.