Quinn lashes out at GOP over stalled pension effort

Aug 18, 2012

Gov. Pat Quinn issued a statement Friday evening regarding the General Assembly's inaction on comprehensive public pension reform.


“(Friday) is a disappointing day for Illinois taxpayers. The only thing standing between our state and pension reform is politics.            "I met with the legislative leaders (Friday morning), and we discussed a number of pension proposals that could be voted on ...," Quinn said. "I asked them to vote on a proposal that reforms four of the systems and eliminates the unfunded liability, as I have repeatedly advocated.        “Republican leaders said no.       "I asked them if they would vote on a proposal that reforms three of the state's systems. Republican leaders said no.       "I asked them to vote on SB 1447, passed by the Senate,  to reform two of the systems. “Republican leaders said no.       “I asked them if they would lead by example, at the very least, and vote to reform the General Assembly pension system.       "Again, Republican leaders said no.       "Illinois has an unfunded public pension liability of $83 billion – the worst in the nation." Quinn said each day a comprehensive pension solution is delayed, the problem gets worse. He said the unfunded liability will grow to more than $92 billion by the end of next fiscal year.        "Illinois is currently on track to spend more on pensions than education by 2016 and that is unacceptable" the governor said.       "I will not stop working on pension reform until we get the job done." He said he has asked legislative leaders to keep the special session open.. 

       Meanwhile, Senate GOP leader, Christine Radogno, posted this staement on her website: 

Unable to come to grips with the need for comprehensive pension reform, Governor Quinn and his legislative allies punted, failing to take action on reforms to the state’s five retirement systems despite a special legislative session called by the Governor August 17.

Instead, the Illinois House considered — and ultimately failed to pass—a limited bill that would have applied only to the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS).

The failure to accomplish meaningful reforms came as little surprise to most lawmakers, since the Governor seemed to have little idea about what he intended to accomplish after he called lawmakers back to Springfield for the special session. Following the failed session, Republican Leaders again pledged support of comprehensive reforms in order to avert a financial collapse of the state's retirement systems and called on the Governor to offer more than bromides.

The proposal filed in the House and contained in an amendment to Senate Bill 3168, offered current and retired General Assembly members the choice between retaining their existing benefits but losing access to state-sponsored health insurance, or retaining access to the health insurance system but accepting more modest cost of living increases after retirement. The measure would have also abolished the entire General Assembly Retirement System for new legislators beginning in 2013. However, by delaying the effective date of the measure, it would have retained the pension system for lawmakers currently in office, as well as any new lawmakers elected in 2012. House lawmakers adjourned without passing the measure after a vote on the amendment revealed the bill did not have the 60 votes needed to advance.

Many lawmakers from both parties voted against the measure, with Republicans calling instead for comprehensive reforms that would apply to all five state retirement systems. Most who voted against the measure criticized the measure’s limited savings, which were estimated at between $41 and $43 million in the short-term.

In contrast, under new, more accurate, accounting standards that are likely to soon be adopted by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, Illinois' pension liabilities are expected to be pegged at as much as $146 billion. Moody's Investor Services has also indicated that it will adopt similar stringent standards. Looking forward, without reform of all state retirement systems, between now and 2045 Illinois will pay more than $630 billion toward state retiree pension obligations.