Illinois News

Bill Daley proposes plan to end pension deadlock

Monday, June 17, 2013

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn says he has fully backed the tough pension proposal supported by the Illinois House and has ''fought hard'' to get it passed.

Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says Quinn cannot act alone and needs House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to work together.

Her comments came Monday as former White House chief of staff Bill Daley said Quinn should threaten to veto any pension reform legislation other than the House proposal.

Daley is exploring a Democratic primary challenge to Quinn and outlined a three-part plan Monday that he says would end pension deadlock in Springfield.

Daley says the governor has "failed to lead," and says a rival pension reform plan supported by the Senate wouldn't solve the state's nearly $100 billion pension shortfall.

Daley held his first news conference since forming his campaign exploratory committee last week. Within minutes, the former U.S. commerce secretary all but ridiculed Governor Pat Quinn's efforts to mobilize the public to pressure state lawmakers to resolve the state's $100 billion pension debt crisis.

"Early this year, the governor announced that Squeezy the Python was going to be the focus of putting a statewide campaign together to bring relief. I guess he didn't squeeze too many people," Daley said.

The governor has ignored Daley, saying he's focused on rounding up support for the expected Senate vote Wednesday on a pension bill already passed by the House. It would among other features, reduce retiree cost of living adjustments, raise the retirement age and the amount current employees contribute to their pensions.

"You need to move these people to a 401K plan," said State Rep. Jeanne Ives, (R), Wheaton.

Republican lawmakers, sensing another Democratic fail, joined the conservative Illinois Policy Institute in supporting a bill to enroll state workers in a 401k-style program.

"This is the only bill that will solve the pension crisis that we are facing," said John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute.

"This is what real pension reform looks like," said State Rep. Tom Morrison, (R), Palatine.

Daley, who supports the same pension reform bill as the governor, also questioned the leadership of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, another possible Democratic primary opponent. Daley wants her to offer opinions on the constitutionality of competing pension reform plans:

"We are in a crisis. Everyone has to step up to the plate and do the job," Daley said.

On Monday afternoon, Lisa Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer issued a statement reading in part: "She [Madigan] has been providing the legislature with legal advice and analysis... the attorney general is doing her job to keep the state's legal options open."

The Senate will vote Wednesday on the pension reform bill that failed in the chamber by a wide margin last month.

"I kind of felt like I was witnessing an awkward family fight," said minority leader Senator Christine Radogno.

Republican Radogno left an impression the Democrats were as dysfunctional as ever only days before yet another attempt to resolve the state's nearly $100 billion pension debt crisis.

"We must get the members of the legislature to pass a comprehensive public pension reform bill so I can sign it into law," Quinn said.

Mike Madigan and Cullerton have passed versions of pension reform in their respective chambers. The speaker's bill, which failed in Cullerton's Senate once, will get another chance at the special session.

"It will require 36 votes, so I'm not very optimistic," Cullerton said.

"The governor has been for his own plan, then he's for Cullerton's plan, then he's for Madigan's plan. Now he's for both plans. That's not leadership," Daley said.

Speaker Madigan, the Illinois Democratic Party chairman and consensus most powerful Illinois politician, says for him to lobby senators to vote for the pension reform bill he sponsored would violate Springfield protocol.

"I'm just telling you the way it is down there," Speaker Madigan said. "You can ask anybody that's down there."

"If he can get votes from Senators to vote for SB1, that's fine," said Cullerton.

The governor was asked about the conspiracy theory still clouding the pension reform debate. Have he and Cullerton choreographed their dispute to benefit a campaign for governor by the speaker's daughter, Attorney General Madigan?

"I hope that isn't the case because an oath of office means something to me and I hope it means something to them," Quinn said.

If the Senate votes down the Speaker Madigan bill a second time, the governor has suggested a conference committee to write a compromise bill. Early indications are there could be difficulty getting the House and Senate to agree on that proposal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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