* Tribune editorial…
“We all know that we must reform the Illinois public pension system. So, members of the General Assembly, what are you waiting for?” Quinn asked.
The governor should have turned and put that to the guy standing behind him in a navy blue suit. House Speaker Michael Madigan, more than anyone else in Illinois, is slow-walking pension reforms.
Senate President John Cullerton and Republicans in both the House and Senate have said they want not only to work on a pension bill, but to bring one up for a vote. The Senate may advance several pension bills next week. Members on that side of the dome voted on a scaled-down pension bill last spring.
Madigan’s contribution of late? He has introduced pension amendments that he knows have no support: Last week, the House voted on amendments that would have eliminated cost of living increases for retired employees, prohibited cost of living increases in years the pension funds weren’t 80 percent funded and required government employees to pay 5 percentage points more toward their retirement accounts.
Madigan called those amendments to the floor knowing they would have little, if any, support. Of course, the amendments failed. We don’t understand Madigan’s gamesmanship. But what a waste of time.
…Adding… It’s more than a little ironic that the Tribune now bashes ideas that it once supported, like forcing employees to pay lots more into the pension funds and raising the retirement age.
* Sun-Times editorial…
Quinn once again made the powerful case for cutting public employee pension costs while also upbraiding legislators for failing to pass a comprehensive pension reform bill. There is little doubt his words were aimed mainly at the leaders who do the corralling, cajoling and strong-arming needed to get a bill passed.
They talk boldly about cutting pensions, but the Democratic leaders are not on the same page to make it happen. They need to get there, with Mike Madigan leading the way.
We don’t buy into the Magic Mike mythology, that Madigan can pass whatever bill he desires. But he wields unmatched influence, in part because no one ever knows where he stands.
It’s past time for Madigan to make his views crystal clear. And the stunt he has planned for Thursday doesn’t count. For the second time in a week he’ll ask legislators to vote for overly harsh pension cuts that will never become law.
* Well, actually, one of the proposals he’s recommending today isn’t anywhere near “overly harsh.” From his interview yesterday with Jak Tichenor…
On Thursday, Madigan plans to hold a vote on an amendment that would cap the level of salary on which a pension could be earned at the Social Security wage base. What that means is that if an employee makes $200,000 a year, their pension still only would be based on the SSA wage base of $113,700, the maximum salary on which Social Security benefits can be earned.
Madigan indicated that more realistic amendments will be voted upon Thursday and that he will be working to pass them – an important point because up until this point, the people involved in crafting these pension bills say he hasn’t made much of a push.
“It’s an easy reform. It ought to be adopted. … I know we’re working with all the Democrats to get a ‘yes’ vote for the amendment. It’s a generally agreed amendment in all of these discussions,” Madigan said.
He also explained whey he held those votes last week…
“To better educate the members of the House and the Senate if they’re watching what we’re doing,” Madigan said when asked what the purpose of those votes was, “because my sense of the attitude of the members of the legislature is that they’re not yet ready to take this difficult step. So by presenting these proposals on the floor with the requirement that people vote will help them better understand how grave the situation is, the difficulty of the proposed changes, so we’ll continue that process over the next several weeks.”
* And as for Quinn’s finger-pointing…
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who was Quinn’s opponent in the 2010 gubernatorial election, said the governor “has had five years to lead on a pension bill and he has failed to do so. He can’t seem to get that done.”
Brady insisted that Quinn hurt his cause with the speech.
“Here was a ‘Mr. Rogers’ style of lecturing the Illinois General Assembly that I don’t think is going to move the ball forward,” Brady said. “The support he heard during his exit (from the House chamber), from his own side of the aisle, was minimal. I think people here are tired of his style of politics and governing.”
Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, did not disagree with Brady.
“I think there are a lot of people in the General Assembly who have been working on solutions to the pension problem, and for the governor to say that there has been a complete lack of action — when I think there has been limited action out of the governor’s office — might set back a solution,” Frerichs said. “If he’s really interested in getting something done rather than lecturing the General Assembly, it would be good to convene groups together and sit down for the hours it’s going to take to reach a solution.”
The governor, who has frequently changed what he backs in a pension bill, this time called for passage of a “comprehensive” measure that includes unspecified changes to the annual compounded interest cost-of-living adjustments that help drive up the pension debt and a suspension of the yearly increases for “those with higher pensions.” The administration declined to define a dollar amount, however. […]
“I think most of the work that has been done on pensions has come out of the General Assembly and not out of the governor’s office,” [said Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno]. “The governor is the one that has been woefully absent.”
Lawrence Msall, president of the government finance watchdog Civic Federation, said Quinn’s budget lacked a specific plan to resolve the pension problem.
“There are no roads out of the fiscal crisis except through pension reform,” Msall said.
* Meanwhile, the governor made a point of saying yesterday during his budget address that he had met with the four leaders last week to discuss pension reform. But…
Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said later that she thought “the purpose of the meeting was to say we had a meeting.”
House Minority Leader Tom Cross said the sit-down “lasted about 5 to 8 minutes, maybe.”
Quinn and three of the leaders waited more than an hour for Speaker of the House Michael Madigan to show, Cross said.
“It was a lot of waiting and then a lot of nothing after that,” Cross said.