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Doug Finke

Little urgency on pension fix

Pre-election reforms may not be in the cards

Pre-election reforms may not be in the cards

SPRINGFIELD – It’s getting closer to the next big meeting between Quinn and the four legislative leaders to discuss pension reform.

This is the one Quinn said he will call in early September in the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrading the state’s credit rating, in part because lawmakers haven’t done anything to further rein in pension costs.

Right after Quinn made the announcement, few people thought the meeting would amount to anything. Now you can add this.

According to reports from the Democratic National Convention, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was asked about pension reform. He said he has no plans to return to Springfield until after the election. So much for any idea that lawmakers might change pensions before the election.

Of course, Quinn could always do another grandstand and call another special session. Given Madigan’s comments, that should be another rousing success.

Going it alone?

At the same time, Madigan hinted the Democrats might go it alone on pension reform.

Remember, up until now Madigan has insisted that Republicans must put a significant number of votes on pension reform. But both sides have dug in on what should constitute pension reform, so there’s been no reform.

Right now, a reform bill that would take effect immediately needs at least a few Republican votes to pass. Even the majority Democrats can’t do it on their own.

But a bill that takes effect next July could be passed (the emphasis on could) with just Democratic votes. So could a bill that takes effect immediately if it passed after Jan. 1.

If the Democrats decide to go it alone, think of what they might try. Not just shifting downstate teacher pension costs to local school districts, but also maybe eliminating some business tax breaks (or “closing loopholes,” if that’s your bent) and then devoting the money to paying down pension debt. By doing that, they could throw a bone to the unions that want loophole closures and simultaneously take a jab at the GOP and their business friends.

Heard it before

Quinn got to make one of the speeches at the convention.

His most quoted line was that he would talk about a scary subject for many Republicans, the facts.

Not so quoted was the last line of the speech, “Join me in voting for President Obama, and together let’s make the will of the people the law of the land.”

Seasoned Quinn watchers know the phrase “make the will of the people the law of the land” is one of a group of lines he repeatedly uses in his talks. It’s part of the Quinn cliché watch conducted by the media when he speaks in public.

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