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Senate not ready to vote on pension borrowing bill

Thursday, May 27, 2010

* From an e-mail sent by the Senate Democrats at around 10 this morning…

The [$3.8 billion pension payment] borrowing bill will not be called in executive committee this morning. There is still work to do.

The “work” involves rounding up the super-majority to pass it

“There are members of the Senate Democratic caucus that don’t support borrowing for the pension, so we will definitely need Republican votes,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

That could be a major problem.

“I have been told there are no votes in the Republican caucus for borrowing,” said Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, one of the Democrats’ budget negotiators. […]

Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, said Republicans have not yet taken a position on the pension borrowing bill.

“The governor called me (Tuesday). I said I will consider it. Right now, I haven’t ruled it out or decided to support it,” Bomke said.

* Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady raised questions yesterday about what GOP Rep. Bob Biggins was offered in exchange for switching from “No” to “Yes” on the pension borrowing bill

Brady, the state GOP chairman, said [Republican Rep. Bill Black] was not singled out for criticism because he attended the House GOP caucus while Biggins skipped it for a meeting in Quinn’s office.

“That’s what raises questions,” Brady said. “I think questions have been raised. We just want to know.”

Biggins said Brady should call him for his reasons for voting instead of issuing critical news releases.

“When the GOP has the guts to call me and ask me why I voted for it, I’ll provide them with the answer for this fiscally responsible vote,” Biggins said. “The Republican position was fiscally unsound.”

From Brady’s press release…

“On the eve of the Blagojevich trial, Pat Quinn seems content to use the same pay-to-play politics of his former running mate. Whether secret meetings behind closed doors were held with a Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter. Governor Quinn, Rep. (David) Miller and Rep. (Bob) Biggins have some explaining to do. Just what did Quinn offer in exchange for their votes for his irresponsible borrowing plan?”

* Quinn denied there was any deal…

On Wednesday, Quinn said rumors that Biggins had been guaranteed a job in his administration were “completely ridiculous.” Asked if that meant he’d never hire Biggins even if re-elected, Quinn launched into a story.

“Bob Biggins, I’ve known him for a long, long time,” the governor said. He then related how one day years ago while attending to business at Chicago’s City Hall, he came across Biggins, who’d had a stroke. Quinn called for emergency assistance. […]

Biggins attributed his recovery to the immediate medical assistance he received.

Biggins said the story did not come up Tuesday night when he met with one of Quinn’s top aides and ultimately chose to switch his vote and support the borrowing plan.

* Gov. Quinn is also holding out on signing a bill to allow universities to borrow money while awaiting late state payments until after the pension bond bill is passed. Several Republicans represent university towns

At a press conference Wednesday, the governor was asked whether he will sign the university borrowing bill that legislators approved more than two weeks ago. Quinn said he first wants the Illinois Senate to vote on the $4 billion pension bill narrowly approved by the House on Tuesday.

“I’ll look at other borrowing after that,” Quinn said.

Quinn sent out a news release Tuesday morning saying he wanted to include the university borrowing bill in the pension legislation. He argued the comprehensive borrowing plan would bring more competitive interest rates on state bonds, lowering costs for taxpayers. The university measure was temporarily combined with the pension bill, but that amendment was later dropped.

“We’re going to address that one, and we’ll address it properly,” Quinn said Wednesday. “But front and center is the borrowing for the pensions.”

The Southern Illinoisan is not amused

Meanwhile, the one decent piece of budgetary legislation in this whole mess sits unsigned. In Carbondale, Edwardsville, Champaign, Charleston and throughout the state, state university officials wonder how they’ll pay their people this summer and fund next semester’s operations.

As SIU President Glenn Poshard has noted, the university will need about 30 days before it can get commercial paper on the market. Naturally, SIU would like to meet its July and August payroll.

Governor, we’d really appreciate if you would put the politics aside, pick up your pen and sign the university borrowing bill. The university communities do not deserve to be held hostage. And, by the way, we vote.

* Mayor Daley doesn’t like the pension borrowing plan

One day after the House approved Gov. Quinn’s $3.7 billion pension borrowing plan with help from two outgoing Republicans, Daley accused lawmakers of mortgaging Illinois’ future.

“Just like the federal government, they borrow and print money. . . . Find out how it’s gonna affect every taxpayer here. Is it gonna affect you next year, the following year, the following year? That is the big problem,” Daley said.

“If you keep borrowing money — just like foreclosure — someone has to pay it back eventually. Who’s gonna pay it back? Is it gonna be my child, my grandchild or great grandchild? That’s the big question everybody has to ask.”

* But the Sun-Times is in favor

Borrowing money to pay bills is usually a really dumb idea. But when you arrive at a place where not paying those bills is an even worse idea — and that’s the reality for the State of Illinois now — there is no other choice. […]

Though hard to fathom, borrowing is actually much cheaper for a pension system that is already one of the most underfunded in the nation.

Getting a loan to pay the $3.7 billion bill will cost the state about $1 billion over the next eight years. In contrast, skipping the payment would cost at least $20 billion in lost investment income over the next 20 years, the governor’s office estimates.

This is not how we hoped the spring legislative session would end. But we’re done dreaming. It’s time for the state Legislature to do the same and make at least one responsible choice.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments
  1. - One to the Dome - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 10:39 am:

    Rep. Pritchard also changed his vote…just the facts.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 10:52 am:

    Now Chairman Brady is calling out Bob Biggins? This is “family business” in the HRO Caucus,… the man is retiring, start looking at the state party for things to beef about.

    The GOP, be it the DuPage GOP, the Daniels’ FOLD organization from back in the day, and now the HRO all had opportunities to take him out as a “weak sister” if they wanted to but let him hang around, and hang around ….

    Bill Black was far more honorable by being forthright and letting everyone know where he was on the bill, but if Biggins felt compeled to make a change, a change I personally feel makes me a bit ill, then the inept caucus should do what they feel is appropriate, or do nothing if they think its appropriate.

    All that said, back to Chairman Brady … If you know of the quid pro quo, then say it, expose it, and bring the point home, otherwise … steer that train wreck of my party towards wins, and not give up the AG and SOS races. When you can not recruit candidates, can’t make a strong ticket that the people will back and can’t slate 6 full races to work on, then you are FAILING as a chairman … Then … you want to ding Biggins? Really?

    If you tell me that Chairman Brady, with a straight face, can say EVERY statewide race is in play because we have the best answer for the voters … Then I will show you a party that can’t control a retiring GOP house member in the heart of DuPage for the good of what the politicos think could be hay in November.

    Chairman Brady … get back to the bridge of the S.S. ILGOP and do something … and leave the HRO Caucus alone, please. Work on my party so I feel there is light at the end of the tunnel for once since 1992. Thanks


  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 10:57 am:

    Any Republicans retiring in the Senate? Any that might be persuaded?


  4. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 11:33 am:

    If it comes down to it, Gov. Quinn can stalk into the Senate chamber and challenge Sen. Radongo to a stare down!

    Perhaps Rep. Biggens was mesmerized. Don’t be left alone in a room with Gov. Stare Down. We can only hope he uses his power for good; perhaps, he could mesmerize enough Reps. to pass HB 174.


  5. - jonbtuba - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:26 pm:

    I get a chuckle out of Bill Brady calling the pension bill irresponsible when he backed it at least as early as the primaries. That’s got to be hypocrisy moment #100 for his campaign so far, right?


  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, May 27, 10 @ 12:36 pm:

    === “Just like the federal government, they borrow and print money. . . . Find out how it’s gonna affect every taxpayer here. Is it gonna affect you next year, the following year, the following year? That is the big problem,” Daley said. ===

    This from the guy who basically borrowed money by privatizing parking meters for a song and then blew through the Rainy Day Fund in record time.

    Hypocrite.


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