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Madigan wants “new start,” backs away from Cullerton slam

Wednesday, Jun 19, 2013 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This is, I think, the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an actual Speaker Madigan apology

Tension seemed to grow between Cullerton and Madigan when it became clear in the last days of session that pension reform was not going to pass both chambers. Madigan attributed the failure to a “lack of leadership” in the Senate.

But [yesterday] he said that reports of that statement had misrepresented his intent. “I meant that I was very disappointed and that this was a major issue that should have been addressed in a better fashion by everybody in the legislature, which is why we’re here today talking about it.” He called the conference committee “a new start.”

He added: “Let’s get good appointments to the conference committee. Let’s expect that they’ll do good work, and they’ll go in good faith and they’ll give us a good compromise.”

* Meanwhile, I think Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, who worked for Cullerton’s office before her election to the House, summed up the disagreement over pension reform better than anyone I’ve ever seen in a mainstream media report

“You’ve got two people whose leadership styles and caucuses are very different. Mike Madigan is a much more conservative and cautious person whose more fiscally conservative. The speaker’s goal was to hit a number that would solve the pension problem long-term. The senate bill was designed to pass constitutional muster. Those are two completely different goals.”

* And then there’s this

There are some inherent institutional forces that have so far acted as roadblocks to a pension overhaul. That includes the Senate caucus’ long-held unwillingness to be seen as Madigan’s rubber stamp, whether the question is pension reform or the budget. Cullerton then is put in the position of losing his grip on power in his own chamber and of losing the backing of unions whom he vowed he would work with. […]

“The Senate doesn’t always appreciate how the House has just passed important pieces of legislation, sent it over to the Senate and chosen to adjourn, leaving the Senate with a take-it-or-leave-it proposition,” said a Democratic operative, who asked to remain anonymous.

That “long-held unwillingness” goes all the way back to at least Phil Rock. This tension ain’t new by any means.

Regardless, Fran Spielman and Natasha Korecki did a far better job of looking at this Springfield problem than anyone else in the Chicago media has done for quite a long time. They didn’t lazily rely on goofy conspiracy theories to pad their piece and went beyond the usual Springfield quotation class to bring in some fresh insight. Go read the whole thing, especially if you’re a Chicago political reporter.


  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:03 am:

    The MJM/Lisa conspiracy stuff has been going on for 12 years and degenerated from lazy to whack-a-doo.

    The pension installment of the saga doesn’t hold up to a minute’s scrutiny. How in the world could MJMs role over the past weeks be seen as helping Lisa at all?

  2. - low level - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:13 am:

    Exactly. Certainly no guarantees, but this is why a CC might work.

    It gives the leaders time to back away, appoint the members in their respective caucuses who have been the point people on the subject, and let them go to work on some compromise.

    Clearly, before agreeing to anything they will check with the leaders; getting guidelines along the way, certainly. This is Illinois, after all.

    Also, Rich - this also allows the CC to meet without having to pay all the legislators to go down for special session days if I’m not mistaken.

  3. - Pacman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:22 am:

    Whatever comes out of the conference committee will in all likelihood be unconstitutional if they use the two competing bills as references. They need to start from scratch.

  4. - Bill - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:38 am:

    They need some new input. If they appoint the same old cabal, Nekritz,Senger, Biss,Morrison et al, then they may as well forget it. The same old nonsense, intransigence, and recalcitrance will result in the same old result…a hurtful, unfair, unconstitutional mess that will never pass or never be upheld.If they continue to stubbornly refuse to discuss revenue the problem will never be solved.

  5. - RNUG - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:45 am:

    If the CC concentrates on how to raise revenue to pay the pension bill they can’t legally avoid, then it will accomplish something. If they continue to seek to reductions / diminishments in already earned benefits, it will all just end up in court with no savings for a year or two.

    But if it’s just the same players, nothing productive will result.

    Maybe the CC should invite Martire to give his presentation …

  6. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:50 am:

    It’s turning out to be quite a session. I never thought we’d see a real CC again. I’m hopeful.

    As to members, there are only a score of people who both understand pension financial impacts, and are not especially in the thrall of one key lobby or another. The so-called “old cabal” are among them. I’d distrust any group which did not include at least a couple of them.

  7. - Bill - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:54 am:

    There’s no point in having anymore testimony. Everything has already been said. It has gone beyond rational thought and is now a political game of cutthroat and chicken. Self preservation, the preservation of power,and gaining even the slightest advantage for their pathetic future political ambitions are their priorities at this point. Same old,same old.

  8. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:58 am:

    IMHO, the CC will be the

  9. - Bill - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 9:58 am:

    ==are not especially in the thrall of one key lobby or another==

    Yeah, you’d rather have them in the thrall of Madigan and Fahner.

  10. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:00 am:

    Having read Martire’s proposal I wonder what specifically about it that is unpalatable to the legislature?

  11. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:03 am:

    ===I wonder what specifically about it that is unpalatable to the legislature?===

    It forces state costs up, not down.

  12. - Pacman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:05 am:

    I got this old Freddy Fender song stuck in my mind that keeps playing the same lyric over and over “Wasted days and wasted nights.”

  13. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:21 am:

    Oops. Pushed the wrong button on the tablet. And then got interrupted by a call.

    IMHO, the CC will be the show while the real negotiations will occur behind closed doors.

  14. - Mark Rosenfeld - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:34 am:

    Since there is some discussion about the SURS pension plan, I thought I would through my idea out there.

    Various pension reforms could still cost taxpayers a great deal of money, why not adopt a plan that benefits ALL workers?

    Blatant self promotion, but it’s my first article. Enjoy!

  15. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:35 am:

    I’ll go out on a limb and guess that Nekritz will be named as one of the House conferees. I’ll go further out on the same limb and predict that Biss is not one of the Senate conferees.

    2404 with the cost shift is still the right compromise but I doubt the Repubs can go along with that and it might still be tossed by the courts.

  16. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Bill, right on. An honest “new start” requires new faces at the table without huge established biases toward whacking earned benefits and a basic grasp of the Constitution.

  17. - RNUG - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:40 am:

    Sticking my neck out, here’s a prediction on what will be included …

    1) university deal that’s on the table

    2) already agreed to increase in future employee contributions in all systems

    3) freezes and guarantees existing benefits / changes (reductions) to future earned benefits for all existing workers and retirees

    4) gradual cost shift for TRS of the ‘normal cost’

    5) some retiree income no longer exempt; state income tax starting at maybe $35K per person / $70K jointly. not a big revenue raiser but symbolically a huge deal

    6) extension of current temporary income tax increase

    7) some AAI (COLA) modification

    8) each piece severable from every other piece

    All of that should be enough to band-aid the budget for 2 to 5 years.

    From a legal perspective, given previous rulings, only # 4, 5 & 6 are clearly legal. Part of #1, SURS cost shift, is clearly legal but the increased employee contributions are in a gray area, as are #2 & 3, given previous court statements about the rules at time of hiring. #7 is clearly illegal diminishment but it needs to be included so it appears the GA tried to deal with it.

  18. - Illannoyed - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:52 am:

    One newbie, two questions: Given that the House’s refusal to recede SB1 will be the putative/nominal trigger of July’s conference, is it now likely that any tilt toward MJM’s preferences might coalesce around an amended version of SB1 rather than his planned “new version” of SB2404? If so, what are the odds that the SB1 wage cap problem that was going to be fixed in the rewrite of SB2404 (in which the pensionable wage cap would rise with CPI-U instead of only 1/2 of it) will again be recognized and remedied? This was the can-kicking problem, if I understand it right, that could have obligated the state to make FICA contributions down the road, and which apparently was recognized even by folks like Sen. Daniel Biss and Laurence Msall a few weeks ago (per Crains’ Greg Hinz). But could it be forgotten in the fog of war?

  19. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    I can believe that I’ve been agreeing with Bill so much lately.

  20. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 10:59 am:

    “can’t” believe

  21. - Bill - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 11:01 am:

    Great minds think alike, Norsie!

  22. - east central - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 11:01 am:

    Speaker Madigan may be trying to avoid a substantial loss of power. His relationship with the WeAreOne unions is a problem. With all the R-side money that will flow in the next election cycles, D’s in general are going to want the support of the unions. D candidates, including those for national offices, may not be too happy to have the head of the state D party at war with several unions.

    More important to internal power is if legislation like SB2404 were to pass, then Cullerton and maybe even Quinn, depending upon how he handles it, would benefit from future union support. Thus MJM cannot afford SB2404-like legislation to pass with the credit going elsewhere. I wonder if his strategy is that the Senate plan needs to be blocked (nobody gains base support) or it needs to be refashioned in some way so credit/blame does not affect the internal D power distribution.

    Given that passing nothing would be an election problem, a compromise solution would seem to be the only way out.

  23. - Langhorne - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    I dont know what their deadline is, but In order to have worthwhile movement, the CC should start w a broad review and overview of positions and proposals: lousin comments on what the real target should be, the ramp, martire, igpa guys/poshard, fortner, unions, etc. then work to narrow things. Hear invited witnesses asked to address specific questions. not open ended self serving bally hoo. (More like the SCt hearing a case)

    W a fresh look, a new combination might emerge. Maybe its not a $96 B prob, maybe its something more manageable.

  24. - biased observer - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    there are many people who don’t like martire’s idea.

    as rich stated, it forces the overall costs to the state higher. further many people are philosophically against financing current pension obligations on the backs of our grand children, kicking the can down the road once again and creating even more problems for the citizens of our state, many of whom aren’t even born yet.

  25. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 12:15 pm:

    === The speaker’s goal was to hit a number that would solve the pension problem long-term. The senate bill was designed to pass constitutional muster. Those are two completely different goals.” ===

    Those also result in two very different outcomes.

    According to Rep. Feigenholtz, anything less than the savings in the Madigan proposal means we’re not done yet with pension reform in the minds of Springfield legislators.


    Round 2 coming up soon. Oh boy.

  26. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 2:17 pm:

    Norse, the more you read Bill, the more sense he makes. Took me awhile too. That and the you-know-who thing.

  27. - In the know - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 4:03 pm:

    8-10 members of conference committee voted for the Madigan bill, 78 of 171 members of GA voted for it. Stacked deck or new realities, we see.

  28. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 4:17 pm:

    === It forces state costs up, not down ===

    How is that different from any other program the state is involved with? Is there a program that is designed to lower costs out there? ;)

  29. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 4:19 pm:

    –How is that different from any other program the state is involved with? Is there a program that is designed to lower costs out there? ;)

    Closing state facilities and reducing payroll.

  30. - SURS MEMBER - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 5:19 pm:

    The unvarnished truth is is Madigan has supported and/or sponsored every underfunding every year since he becane speaker in or about 1982 (except for the big extra infusion on the pension bond in 2003). In the same time period he supported and/or sponsored endless pension benefit increases almost annnualy until 2002 (a new law in 2005 prohihited new benefits without a funding source. All these new benefits were never accompanied by new money to pay for them - and after the 1995 law was passed to “fix” the problem in 50 years, he supported and/or sponsored benefit increases in each of the next six years. He has no credibility how can he be trusted in these negotiations with a record like that. As the Daley poll indicates people are seeing through his charade

  31. - SURS MEMBER - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 5:26 pm:

    just saw Rep Feigenholz (who I respect)comment on Madigan being a fiscal conservative. His record on pensions metione din the above post says just the opposite - spent wildly on constituent pleasing benefits and failed to pay for it every year but told is caucus to support it.

  32. - Just The Way It Is One - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 7:26 pm:

    The Bible talks about how in the end the 3 things that last are faith, HOPE, and love. We can only “hope” the Speaker’s not bluffing this time…and that maybe, just maybe, this time, there IS hope a good reform Law can be formulated and passed…

  33. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jun 19, 13 @ 7:45 pm:

    Huge troll just popped up. We shall not feed the troll.

  34. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Jun 20, 13 @ 4:50 pm:

    So, Norseman, you’re not gonna feed yourself. Wake up dude–I’ve been commenting on this Blog for years and at least as much if not more than you–oh, and by the way, since when are YOU judge and jury for who a troll is and that the substance of someone’s Comments are or are not worthwhile?! Snap out of it, oh ye so Far Above Me! Oh, and take note, again, from the Bible (if you ever bother to look into One): Judge not, that you yourself may not be judged…!

  35. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Jun 20, 13 @ 4:51 pm:

    Oh, and it’s from the Gospel of Matthew 7:1, in case you bother to care or follow-up from your snitty, judgmental remark…!

  36. - Norseman - Thursday, Jun 20, 13 @ 5:56 pm:

    You just proved my point.

  37. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, Jun 20, 13 @ 7:21 pm:

    Too bad for you, Norseman–not everyone can be a committed Christian who knows what the
    Bible actually says. Enjoy proving MY point, exactly, and feeding yourself with your Judgment of Superiority…

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