Speaker declines summit invitation; unions respond

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan has declined to participate in a summit meeting intended to help state leaders and public employee unions develop a fair and constitutional solution to the Illinois pension problem.

The We Are One Illinois labor coalition sent invitation letters for the February 11th summit to Governor Pat Quinn and the four top legislative leaders. But on Wednesday, Madigan sent his response Ito Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan and made it clear he’ll not be attending the summit:

Your letter implies pension reforms faltered because the concerns of labor were not considered. In my view, the positions of organized labor were taken into account during the 2012 legislative session. I recall no fewer than eight high-level meetings that took place with labor, legislative leaders and the governor. At that time, I felt there was little willingness from representatives of labor to draft a comprehensive, common-sense solution.

The labor coalition responded to Madigan’s rejection of the summit by pointing out that labor has offered a framework for a fair and constitutional solution, but has been ignored by the state’s elected leaders.

Our coalition has already put forward a plan that addresses the intertwined problems of inadequate revenues and underfunded pensions. It would end the practice of politicians shorting actuarially required payments to the retirement funds; ease state budget pressures by closing wasteful tax loopholes, especially for big corporations; and require active public employees to pay more toward the pensions they earn and rely on. Our plan would provide at least $2.35 billion a year to stabilize the retirement funds, while preventing cuts to retirees who worked hard and played by the rules.

The We Are One Illinois plan has the potential to be a starting point for participatory discussions around a pension-funding solution. Crucially, we believe that pension legislation supported by all parties is the only way to meet constitutional muster and avert costly and time-consuming court battles.

Read Speaker Madigan’s letter

Read the We Are One Illinois coalition statement

Read more about the labor coalition’s ideas for addressing the state’s pension issue