Quinn Responds To Pension Absence, Begins Reach Out

Oct 15, 2013

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to leading Democrats in September as he seeks the state party's endorsement in his campaign for re-election; critics say the governor has been concerned about politics, rather than policy, when it comes to pensions -- for example by stripping legislators of their salaries as punishment for not passing a bill, even as he was absent from negotiations.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.

It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.

But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.

"It's a financial crisis like we've never seen in Illinois before. We want the governor engaged."

The governor's office says Quinn is now taking a more hands on approach. He's met so far with four Democratic legislators on the committee: its chair, Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago; Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston; Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook; and Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago.  Quinn is scheduled to talk this week with some of the panel's Republican members.

A spokesman also confirms that Quinn met recently with the legislative leaders about pensions, and says he will again leading up to veto session, which begins next Tues., Oct. 22.

With the conference committee still unable to reach a consensus, the leaders may hold the key to what happens to Illinois' retirement systems.