* The Decatur Herald & Review editorial board made a good point in today’s issue…
It was amazing the past few days to watch General Assembly members scramble for reasons to not support a pension solution. They were almost like Goldilocks; some proposals were too hard; some were too soft. None, however, was just right because legislators are afraid to vote on an issue that might anger the state’s public employees.
State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said he couldn’t support any proposal because judges weren’t included. We agree judges should be included, but taxpayers would be better off with a partial solution to this problem than no solution.
Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, didn’t like that the problem was being handled in the lame-duck session. We agree, but at $17 million a day, isn’t there a need for some urgency?
* The Tribune made a similar point earlier this week…
Timid lawmakers reached hither and yon to find reasons for not supporting reform legislation: This proposal is too strong, that proposal is too weak, and so on — whatever it took to avoid decisive action.
Among the most maladroit: state Rep. Tom Morrison, a conservative Republican from Palatine, who ran for office on a platform of … pension reform.
We endorsed Morrison wholeheartedly — and then he voted Monday in committee against the only serious, cost-cutting pension reform measure that had any momentum. He evidently thought it didn’t go far enough. In other words, pension reform champion Morrison had found his reason to oppose pension reform!
* But Gov. Quinn was still optimistic, as always…
Gov. Pat Quinn says he believes a new crop of lawmakers will help the Legislature fix Illinois’ $96 billion pension crisis.
Members of the new General Assembly took the oath of office Wednesday. Among them were dozens of lawmakers who were elected to the House or Senate for the first time.
Quinn says many of those legislators ran for office on a platform of pension reform. He says that should help “get the job done.”
* Unlike in the past, however, there is some reason for Quinn’s optimism, as the Tribune editorial board points out today…
As for the ambitious crop of new lawmakers, you’ve got to play catch-up, and fast. We’re counting on incoming Democrats such as Sam Yingling and Scott Drury and Republicans such as Jeanne Ives to make some noise. Remember what you said during the campaign?
“It’s going to take the courage of the freshmen class to make changes. I’m not going to need political cover. I’m going down there to get something done,” Ives told us during an endorsement interview last fall. “I’m willing to vote on anything that advances the situation in a positive way. I will do any baby steps to get there.”
Wanted: Baby steps. Big steps. Galloping strides. Fix the pensions now.
With that last line, the Tribune also appears to be coming around. Legislators may need to rethink this entire process. Maybe “baby steps” are in order for now, just to get something done.
* But not everyone is optimistic…
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, a 20-year legislative veteran and the GOP candidate for governor three years ago, also expressed pessimism.
Based on the failure of pension negotiations earlier this week, he said, “I don’t see any progress on the governor’s ability to do anything. I do think that the rank-and-file members who are dependent on those pension systems, they know that this system can’t be sustained without reforms. They’re willing to discuss reforms.”
But he faulted Gov. Pat Quinn for the failed bargaining.
“When you are sticking a needle in the eye of the state’s biggest union on a contract negotiation, and trying to negotiate this, you see the kind of results this governor gets,” he said.
* Pension debate to continue in new General Assembly: That plan also will revive a provision that had been removed this week, in hopes of attracting more votes for the package: shifting pension costs for downstate teachers to local school districts.
* Hinz: What now for Illinois pension reform?
* Lame Duck Session Ends Without Vote On Pensions, Lawmakers Plot Next Moves