It’s been a busy week on pension reform in Illinois. Oh, don’t get excited. A busy week doesn’t mean that anything substantial actually happened. This week was a microcosm of what has happened on the issue so far – lots of talk, no action.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate William Daley took a page out of Gov. Pat Quinn’s playbook and proposed a populist idea that will have no impact. Daley proposed that the governor and legislative leaders conduct marathon meetings until an agreement on the $97 billion in outstanding pension obligations is reached.
Locking the participants in a room until they reach a deal sounds like a good idea. But there isn’t really a need for more meetings. What’s needed are leaders and legislators with the courage to take a vote that will be unpopular with a lot of people.
Even if such meetings were workable, it’s unlikely attendance would be very high. A lot of legislators are on vacation and several are out of the country on a tour of China. Quinn’s latest populist ploy – taking away lawmakers’ pay – has been met by a collective yawn from General Assembly members. It’s a pretty clear sign of the governor’s lack of respect in the legislative ranks. The reaction from the General Assembly seems to indicate they are certain they’ll get paid eventually.
While Quinn and Daley expressed populist ideas that will have little or no impact, Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, issued a letter saying judges should be included in any pension system overhaul.
A number of the recent reform proposals have left the Judges Retirement System out of the mix. The reasoning is that judges, including the state Supreme Court, will eventually hear the case when the reforms undergo an almost certain Constitutional challenge.
We’ve heard little lately out of a special House-Senate committee that is supposed to be forging a compromise on the issue. At last report the group was waiting on actuarial reports to help with their deliberations. The governor’s July 9 deadline was totally ignored, more evidence of Quinn’s impact.
That’s the report this week from State Deadbeat, where the bills don’t get paid, the legislators are on a junket, talk is plentiful and the biggest problem in the state’s history continues to be ignored.