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Little hoopla over signing of reform law

Same-sex bill drew hundreds; only a handful at pension ritual

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 1)

Pension reform may have been a top priority for Gov. Pat Quinn and a major step toward restoring fiscal stability in the state, as some of its supporters contend. You just wouldn’t know that from the bill-signing ceremony.

A couple of weeks ago, when Quinn signed same-sex marriage into law, they needed a university auditorium to accommodate the crowd, and Quinn needed to sign his full name in order to use the 100 or so ceremonial pens available for the occasion.

Last week, Quinn signed the pension reform bill in his office. And with only three of the four legislative leaders and a handful of the pension reform conference committee members in attendance, he didn’t exactly put a crimp in his supply of ceremonial pens. He probably could have accommodated everyone just by initialing the bill.

It was one of those bills that many people felt was necessary to pass, but they’re not really crowing about it.

ADM shut out

After approving pension reform, lawmakers had a chance last week to extend tax breaks to a number of companies, including agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland. The companies want the incentives to keep facilities and jobs in Illinois.

The key is that lawmakers had a chance. They adjourned without giving final approval to the tax breaks. It might not have been the best idea to approve tax breaks for large corporations right after approving a bill to curtail pension benefits for public workers.

GOP votes

Two Republican candidates for governor serve in the General Assembly and cast votes on pension reform last week.

Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington voted in favor of the plan, just as he voted for a similar bill last spring. Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale opposed it, even though he voted for the similar bill last spring.

Interestingly, Dillard’s choice for lieutenant governor, Rep. Jil Tracy of Quincy, split with him and voted in favor of pension reform last week.

Quinn’s pay

Quinn said last week he hadn’t thought about retrieving his paychecks that have been collecting dust in the comptroller’s office since last summer.

You recall Quinn vetoed money from the state budget to pay lawmakers’ salaries until they approved a pension reform bill. Quinn also stopped taking his paycheck at the same time.

The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately reinstated the money for lawmakers to get paid. However, Quinn vowed that he would still forgo his salary until pension reform was approved.

Despite the obvious temptation to let Quinn continue serving without pay indefinitely, the Legislature approved pension reform, which would appear to free Quinn from his pledge and allow him to collect about $74,000 in back pay.

Unless, of course, he heeds the advice of those who suggested he continue to go without pay until the courts decide if pension reform is constitutional. That would put a squeeze on the old savings account.

Ain’t over yet

Tired of reading stories about pension reform? Hopeful that things will change now that a pension reform bill has passed and been signed into law?

Too bad. That was only phase one. Now, phase two begins with weeks and months of stories about the legal challenge or challenges that will be mounted against the law.

Sorry to ruin your day.

No winners

Governing magazine last week released its 2013 list of public officials of the year – nine people it said “have demonstrated the true power of public service.”

The following Illinois officials were on the list:

OK, we’ll move on to other things now.

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