Quinn punishes lawmakers for not passing a bad pension bill

In a move likely to win applause from supporters of unconstitutional “pension reform,” Gov. Quinn today took an unprecedented action against the General Assembly for failing to meet his July 9th deadline for addressing state pensions.

Gov. Pat Quinn said today he is suspending state lawmakers’ pay (and his own) until they come up with a comprehensive solution to the state’s public pension mess, a dramatic gesture that is likely to increase tension with the General Assembly and the fellow Democrats who lead it.

“It’s important our budget reflect what the people want,” Quinn said at a news conference in Chicago, announcing he would use his line-item veto power to alter the state budget.

The action came just a day after the governor’s representative, budget director Jerry Stermer, was raked over the coals by members of the legislative conference committee that is working to develop a pension bill that can pass both chambers of the General Assembly.

Committee members didn’t appreciate suggestions by Gov. Quinn (who was not at the committee meeting) or Stermer (who was) that lawmakers aren’t working hard enough on pensions.  In fact, several blamed the governor for the failure to pass a pension bill in the spring session, and for the lack of an agreement on a new pension bill by the committee members.

As Sen. Linda Homes asked several times Tuesday, “Where is the governor?”

Apparently he was in his office devising this plan to try force the General Assembly into passing something he can call “pension reform.”

Since the voting public has a low opinion of both Gov. Quinn and the Illinois legislature, this blatant grandstanding should result in some positive PR for the governor. Perhaps even some members of IEA and the other unions comprising the We Are One Illinois coalition will get some enjoyment from knowing that Quinn and the lawmakers are going to experience some financial pain.

“Welcome to the club” they might be thinking.

But remember, Gov. Quinn wanted Speaker Madigan’s unconstitutional and unfair Senate Bill 1 passed. Had that happened, we would have seen Quinn taking credit for passage of a “pension reform” bill that would have imposed devastating benefit changes on current employees and retirees.

Despite Quinn’s support, SB1 was twice defeated in the state senate. The same chamber easily passed SB2404, the bill negotiated by Senate President John Cullerton and the members of the union coalition.

SB2404 would have easily passed the House, but Speaker Madigan never called it. And the man who has claimed he was “was put on earth” to fix pensions, refused to demand that the Speaker relent.

With Wednesday’s announcement, Gov. Quinn is punishing the lawmakers who stood with the current public employees and those retired on pensions from TRS, SURS and the other state systems.

He’s punishing them for refusing to pass a bad, unfair and blatantly unconstitutional pension bill.

He’s punishing them for refusing to act irresponsibly and illegally to injure active and retired public employees.

Today, the governor said his action reflects, “what people want.”

Not really.

The voters don’t want public employees to shoulder the entire cost of fixing the budget problem caused by politicians who diverted money from the pension systems. We know this. Even the Tribune knows it.

The people want leadership that will resolve the state’s serious financial problems in a way that is fair and constitutional. There remains hope that we will get it from the pension committee, in spite of the governor.

Click here to send an e-mail to members of the conference committee to encourage them to adopt the plan embodied in the original SB 2404 and to explore ideas beyond cutting modest pensions.

If your state representative or senator is not on the committee, please contact them at 888-412-6570 or click here to call. Tell them to demand a House floor vote on SB 2404, and tell them to reject any other plans — including any future bills developed by the conference committee — if they do not have the support of the We Are One Illinois union coalition.