Expert: Quinn Must Win On Pensions

Jun 11, 2013

Kent Redfield
Credit UIS

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn “Desperately needs a win” on pension reform. That’s the conclusion of political scientist Kent Redfield. The U of I - Springfield professor spoke ahead of next week’s special session on pensions, which Quinn ordered. Redfield says the Governor repeatedly blamed pension costs for the state's budget problems. If no agreement is reached, Redfield says, Quinn will look weak going into next year’s primary election:

“Whoever the Democratic opponent is will be using this to say `the Governor’s been talking pensions forever, nothing’s happened, the Governor can’t govern’.” -Kent Redfield

At least one Democrat seems ready to challenge Quinn. Former White House chief of Staff William Daley says he's forming a committee to explore a run for governor. Governor Quinn has said he’ll seek a second term.

The special session will try to resolve an impasse between House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both of whom released separate plans to reduce the state’s pension costs.

Redfield says when it comes to the pension negotiations, recent history suggests who will prevail:

“The playbook looks like concealed-carry where the House sends a version that the Senate has to swallow, or education reform from a couple of years ago where the Senate backs down. So Madigan clearly believes he has the stronger hand.”

Cullerton’s measure would give workers a choice between state-subsidized health insurance or cost of living increases in retirement. He insists his plan would survive a constitutional challenge. Madigan wants to cut benefits, increase contributions, and make workers work longer before retirement. According to Redfield, Madigan’s plan would exercise special powers, giving the state authority to diminish benefits unilaterally.