Governor Pat Quinn says the state's pension costs jump by $12 million each day and says the upcoming special session, not post-election, is the time to pass reform. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday hoped to increase the pressure on state lawmakers to agree to pension reform, setting a deadline on making changes.
"This Friday is the day,'” Quinn said, noting that the state's pension costs jump by $12 million each day there is no answer.
Quinn has called lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session and although the four top leaders have yet to find a solution to the $83 billion shortfall, the governor believes it’s possible to fix.
"To put it in perspective, someone who retired from state employment in 1992 with a $60,000 pension, today under the current rules is getting $120,000," he said.
Quinn wants to see the state shift the cost from the state to the local school district and phase it in over a 12 year period. Currently, only the city of Chicago is responsible for its teacher pension costs; downstate and suburban districts rely on the state to pay the bill.
House Minority Leader Tom Cross agrees now is the time to make the difficult decisions. Yet, should the lawmakers reform pensions, it may just free up major state dollars and that’s why he’s concerned.
"The speaker, the senate president [and] the mayor want more money to spend, they need, they want a billion more dollars. That’s also what this is about. And I would say the track record in Illinois for how we spend money is abysmal," said Cross.
While skeptics doubt lawmakers will be able to find a solution this Friday and predict it’s more likely to happen after the November election, the governor said that'd be a bad move.
"Waiting until after the election only makes things worse. The bond houses won’t wait. I’m very, very fearful of this," he said.
The pension crisis impacts several issues, including postponing a decision as to whether the state will kick in any financial backing to renovate Wrigley Field
Asked on that point, if he would entertain a renovation of Wrigley Field before pensions are solved, his response was a resounding "no."
"Never, how could you put that priority above the children of Illinois?" said Quinn.
On a separate topic, the governor curtailed media tours at state prisons, especially as the closure of Tamms is underway.
"I don’t think there’s a need for any media tours of any prisons. It’s not a country club," he said.