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*** UPDATED x3 - Cullerton to call back Senate on his own *** Quinn to Senate: See you in Springfield

Monday, Jul 30, 2012

* The governor made an announcement during his City Club speech today

Gov. Pat Quinn today called for a special session of the General Assembly on Aug. 17 to take up pension reform.

“It’s time to vote,” Quinn said of lawmakers. “See you in Springfield.”

The Illinois House already was scheduled to be in that day to deal with the fate of indicted Democratic Rep. Derrick Smith of Chicago.

More in a bit.

* Here’s the official proclamation

*** UPDATE 1 *** A joint statement by the two Republican legislative leaders…

“We are encouraged by the Governor’s call for a special session on pension reform on August 17. As many people know, we have been and continue to be supportive of comprehensive pension reform that solves the major crisis facing us today. The time to act has been upon us. We are continuing to encourage Governor Quinn to take a leadership role to get a comprehensive pension bill passed in the General Assembly. We will continue to be available to discuss this very important matter in the coming weeks.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Senate President John Cullerton will ask the governor to rescind the special session proclamation so Cullerton can just add a session day on his own next month. Details in a bit.

*** UPDATE 3 *** And here’s the press release…

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton is asking the governor to withdraw his Special Session proclamation so taxpayers aren’t hit with thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday ordered a Special Session on Aug. 17 to address unspecified pension legislation. By doing so, the governor’s actions mean state taxpayers will cover certain transportation and travel costs for lawmakers and the total tab could cost taxpayers upward of $40,000 for the day.

“I share the governor’s interest in resolving the lingering pension issues, but it makes no sense to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars when there is an easy, no-cost alternative,” Cullerton said on Monday in recommending Quinn rethink the official Special Session.

Cullerton instead said he will bring the Senate back into session on Aug. 17, a move that would make the Senators ineligible to have travel costs covered by taxpayers. Under state law, if the governor demands a Special Session the taxpayers cover General Assembly travel costs, but if the Senate President or House Speaker simply convene an additional regular session day, there are no such taxpayer costs.

“I appreciate the seriousness of this issue, but there’s simply no need for taxpayers to incur the cost of a Special Session,” Cullerton said. Furthermore, the pension reform legislation likely to be addressed on Aug. 17 already cleared the Illinois Senate back on May 31. House Bill 1447 would substantially change lawmakers’ own pension system and that of state employees (SERS). The Illinois Senate approved the legislation in a remarkable bipartisan vote on the final day of the spring session.

According to recent media reports, the House may take up that legislation on Aug. 17. The House had already scheduled session on that day to take up a disciplinary recommendation involving one of its members.

The Senate President said all the circumstances show why a costly Special Session is unwarranted. The House was already coming back to the Capitol, the Senate President will add a session day, and the pension legislation in question already passed the Senate.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Cassiopeia - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:27 pm:

    It would be a good time for the Senate to act on all the executive appointments while they are in Springfield.

    That way they can actually do something while they are waiting around between leader meetings.

  2. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:29 pm:

    I can’t help it, I admire the new tough Quinn. He is the last person in the world to want to cut essential government services, but he is doing what it takes to stop the ship of state from going down in this fiscal crisis. I don’t envy a governor who has to deal with Cullerton, Madigan, Cross, AFSCME, and the downstate press, but he seems to be fully up for it.

  3. - RNUG - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:32 pm:

    Does this have anything to do with it being Kid’s Day at the fair?

  4. - Spliff - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:32 pm:

    Quinn is obtuse! Maybe he should draft a bill and talk to some legislators before calling them all into springield for one day that the tax payers have to pay them for.

  5. - The Elderly Man You Used to Love - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:39 pm:

    The new tough Quinn? If he’s so tough, how come he hasn’t brokered an agreement on the pension cost shift? A strong, tough, effective leader would have locked everyone in a room and gotten a deal before the fireowrks flew on July 4th. As things now stand, it’s highly likely that everyone will just come to town and retreat to the safety of their party caucus-approved positions and nothing will happen. And by the way, why isn’t the media taking Quinn to task for doing a 360 on the cost shift? First he was for it, then he backed off it, then he was for it again.

  6. - Foxfire - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:41 pm:

    I wonder if there’s any connection between this announcement and the WGN special program scheduled for 9:30 pm tonight called “Pension Games.”

  7. - Stuff happens - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:46 pm:

    Dang, I should have sold my house earlier. Real estate is suddenly going to be very plentiful in Urbana-Champaign.

  8. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    Elderly Man,
    As I said: I don’t envy a governor who has to deal with Cullerton, Madigan, Cross, AFSCME, and the downstate press, but he seems to be fully up for it.

  9. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:58 pm:

    Should be booming business for Springfield that day with the fair going on.

  10. - Coach - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:02 pm:

    === any connection between this announcement and the WGN special program ===

    A short-term press pop is as plausible an explanation as any, particularly given Quinn’s history of relying on that strategy. But after the glow of next day’s positive press has faded, Quinn would be well advised to have a plan for actually accomplishing something during special session. Rod taught us, ad nauseam, that you can’t berate lawmakers into action simply by calling them into special session and shouting at them from the rooftops.

  11. - Anonymous Me - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:03 pm:

    That should work out well with the fair activities on the 15th and 16th and, of course, the fundraisers.

  12. - Fed up - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:05 pm:

    Does this mean Quinn will venture south of I-80.

  13. - mokenavince - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:06 pm:

    We Quinn said he would meet us in Springfield ,I thought like tommorrow not in 3 weeks

  14. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:09 pm:

    Looks like someone found the Rod Blagojevich playbook. Wonder how this ends …

  15. - Jimmy - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:25 pm:

    I suspect this action is to appease the State credit rating agencies. Not sure what business the senate can take up? The Senate has already passed a pension reform package and the House is tackling the “cost-shift” issue.

  16. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:27 pm:

    Quinn was in a box. As Rich pointed out, the House Republicans were unlikely to muster the votes to pass the Senate bill.

    Having both caucuses present atleast makes legislation possible. Plus, now everybody gets their per diem.

  17. - steve schnorf - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:38 pm:

    I will try to be optimistic, but I’m afraid it isn’t soup yet

  18. - Use What we Have - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:59 pm:

    I’ve decided to solve the pension problems and only annoy environmentalists:
    Illinois has 37.9 Billion tons (BT)estimated recoverable coal reserves. (more than 100 BT exist in IL) 2010 figures. 2010 figures: Il Coal sells for $40 per ton. Tax it at 10 per ton and it is still competitive. Build the FutureGen project, Projected production could jump to 100 million tons annually = 1 billion revenue annually. Pay what you promised, energize the coal industry and create jobs.

  19. - Rusty618 - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:08 pm:

    It will be unconstitutional to make any changes to the pensions of any retiree or current employee. He can only change the pensions of future employees…or face the risk of an overwhelming amount of lawsuits.
    As long as he is venturing south of I-80 he should be able to kill 2 birds with one stone…and visit the fair at tax payer expense. I wonder if he will stay at the Governor’s mansion to make it like 31 days he has stayed there this year…at an operating cost of $600K/year!

  20. - Wensicia - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:11 pm:

    I get the feeling this is all for show. I don’t believe the House will pass the Senate version, so they’ll be back to square one. One day’s theatrics will please the press, but won’t accomplish much.

  21. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:12 pm:

    I think the GOPies stopped Juuuuuuuuust short of saying they also want to vote on anything. just continued supportapalooza for comprehensive reform and 24-7 for availability.
    Wonder if Billboards talked with Gags before crafting this brainstorm.

  22. - No confidence - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:16 pm:

    Since the current governor believes any promises (laws) can be taken away (I.e 20 yrs and full health care coverage).. How can a retiree choose between h care or cola when the rules can change anytime in the future.

  23. - walkinfool - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:39 pm:

    I am optimistic that something substantial on pensions will be passed that week — just not sure what.

  24. - WazUp - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:53 pm:

    The Gov forgot to mention that he won’t be there..I think he’s going back to Spain..Please Go !

  25. - reformer - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:30 pm:

    If it doesn’t pass, Republicans will blame…Madigan, even if he supplies half the votes toward passage.

  26. - downhereforyears - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:45 pm:

    Simple fact is that not many want to vote on this before the election.

  27. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:54 pm:

    Sounds like the Republicans are punting to me.

    Remember when they were complaining about not having a seat at the table?

  28. - Trudat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 5:39 pm:

    The Gov is starting to remind me of when my kid breaks away and runs down the hall with only half his clothes on. His staff must just be going nuts trying to keep up with him.

  29. - very overwhelmed - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 6:02 pm:

    in the pension packet where you have to sign your name to participate in health care it says that the state will contribute 100% toward the cost of health insurance premiums. Premiums for dental and eligible dependent coverage are additional. How can they make you choose when it sounds like it is already a benefit.

  30. - Quinn T. Sential - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 6:16 pm:

    Political CYA version of the “Hail Mary” play as the clock winds down to 0:00.

    When nothing (constitutional) gets done, then everyone will blame everyone else, and campaign on it.

    In the interim however, they can schedule and coordinate some Springfeild fundraisers to save money on gas or postage for those downstate donors.

  31. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 6:19 pm:

    Would it be terribly naive of me to hope that with the Senate being called back that 1447 doesn’t have the votes and they are coming up with something else? I did notice a new pension bill on ILGA website, filed late July.

  32. - Newsclown - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 7:24 pm:

    Cullerton: ’tis a little disingenuous perhaps, to cry over wasting forty grand, to get to talk over fixing the multi-billion-dollar holes in the pension funds and General fund. What are we paying you guys to do down there, again?

  33. - RNUG - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 8:18 pm:

    About the only constitutional thing they could pass would be the transfer of future TRS pension payments to the school districts … but that probably won’t play well outside Chicago right before an election.

  34. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 8:22 pm:

    Quinn sez A, Cullerton sez B, Madigan sez nothing. Sounds like a….Circular Firing Squad!

  35. - Pale Rider - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 8:36 pm:

    WOW! Quinn is going to be in Springfield? Ah, he must not be doing any press.

  36. - Jack - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:01 pm:

    Doesn’t anyone else see this as a cheap ploy to get per diem so they can go see Cheap Trick at the State Fair?

  37. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:05 pm:

    Umm … Jack … did you read any of the press releases above? The House was already scheduled to be here. There’s no need for the Senate to be here. Quinn’s the one handing out per diem cash.
    On the other hand, if you’re going to spend taxpayer money, I’d like to consider Cheap Trick a worth cause.

  38. - Just Me - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 10:49 pm:

    This entire goofball story is a perfect example of why Illinois is absolutely broken.

    Instead of having a special session that will focus on a real problem that has a price tag of billions of dollars, the focus of the event is now about a measly few thousand dollars in per diem costs. Congratulations Cullerton for being absolutely tone deaf and worried more about a stupid headline and cheap politics then real problems.

  39. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:06 pm:

    Just Me, did you read the part about the Senate already approving reforms for two of the systems?

  40. - Just Me - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:20 pm:

    Michelle, yes, I did. I also read the story where Cullerton acknowledged the fact that the Senate’s bill doesn’t solve the entire problem.

    MORE IMPORTANTLY, TO RESPOND TO YOUR COMMENT, if Cullerton’s reasoning was that the Senate already did its part as you suggest and therefore should be exempt from this special session, then he wouldn’t have offered to call the Senate back in on his own in order in order to save per diem costs.

    So instead of focusing on the problem that costs billions of dollars, Cullerton wants to change the focus to a few thousand dollars to try and embarrass the Governor, so once again I re-state my original post which is that this is proof that Illinois is broken.

  41. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:31 pm:

    Just me, so why should taxpayers foot the bill for a special session when one isn’t needed? The House was already going to be in Springfield that day.

    Exactly what does the governor want passed? Is is the plan for all four systems that he supported until he backed off only to then support it again?

    Please, shed some light on the goals and desires of the Quinndergarten.

  42. - Observing - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 6:34 am:

    Is anyone providing a detailed analysis of HB1447? Where are the journalists on this bill…we know where the publishers and editorial staff are: protecting the GOP line.

  43. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 7:23 am:

    Smart move by Cullerton. Again.

  44. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 7:56 am:

    To Schnorf’s point, from the Chicago Tribune:

    Although Quinn sought to frame his special session call based on hopes for a deal, Republicans said privately that they had not talked to the governor since he had convened the legislative leadership in his office about six weeks ago.

    That said, Republicans are on the wrong side of this fight and will lose badly if they don’t rethink their position on local responsibility for pensions. Even the Chicago Tribune editorial board disagrees with them.

    That’s what happens when your political/legislative strategy is always picking fights and never looking for solutions. In chess, they call it “forcing the tempo.” Eventually, you pick a fight you can’t win, and end up losing everything.

    If Republicans end up looking like the Obstructionists on Pension Reform, what exactly will they campaign on in the Fall?

  45. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 8:28 am:

    Michelle, the mere fact that we are even having this conversation is further proof of my point. You and I have now wasted time arguing over a mere $40k, when the special session is to solve a multi-billion (that is billion with a “b”) problem. If the General Assembly was going to really solve this problem, who on earth would care about the $40k?

  46. - Jade Rabbit - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 9:10 am:

    By 2042 the first of the baby boomers will be reaching 97 and the last will be reaching 78. The youngest of that generation is 48 at the moment and may be eligible to retire in 7 years.

    My point is that the system will most likely balance itself through attrition in the next 30 years. The plan needed to resolve this crisis within 5 years and not 30 years.

    I expect just as the income tax wasn’t enough, this too will fall short. The Pension system is top heavy (more retirees than workers paying into the system.) The fund can not sustain itself on investment returns at this time in history. The only way to infuse enough cash into the pension system to grow the base and increase the return is with more employees.

    Unfortunately the state can not hire enough bodies to do the work that is needed because every worker has to come in at prevailing wages. Illinois could benefit from an influx of $10-$15/hr state employees cleaning up the parks and other facilities. Those un-employed people and recent college grads would be willing to take the lower paid jobs for the pension at the end of the road.

    Unfortunately, prevailing wages have removed that option from our state tool belt.

    Now, here we are cutting the carrot that used to move the state, while our employees munch on the lettuce leaves that the unions have heaped in front of the them.

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