Why does Gov. Pat Quinn keep doing this?
The General Assembly finally hands him a victory of sorts when it agreed to create a conference committee to try and draft a pension reform compromise. It was Quinn’s latest backup plan when it became obvious his Plan A — getting the Senate to approve the House reform plan — was going nowhere.
But even before the Capitol cleared out Wednesday, Quinn held a news conference setting a firm July 9 deadline for lawmakers to act. Some people are gluttons for punishment.
Quinn’s set several deadlines for lawmakers to enact pension reform, and they’ve blown through them without a second thought. Having lawmakers meet his deadlines doesn’t appear to be one of Quinn’s strong points.
Besides, in this case, it’s almost certain to fail just because of the logistics of the problem. The whole idea of the committee is to reach a compromise, which presumably means taking a piece of this plan and a piece of that plan and come up with something that can pass the General Assembly. But before any compromise gets a vote, you can be sure that lawmakers will want some proof that the changes being proposed will actually save some serious money. It can literally take weeks for numbers crunchers to run the figures on something as complex as pension reform.
News outlets can probably safely prepare their stories now about another missed Quinn pension deadline, just so they’ll be ready to go on July 9.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the public employee unions fare in this latest stab at pension reform.
The union coalition We Are One Illinois already called the committee “stacked against protecting retirement security” because eight of 10 members voted for the House reform plan that is opposed by the unions. Only two voted for the Senate plan supported by the unions that was negotiated with Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago.
The unions still want their plan passed and without any changes. They told a House committee last week they weren’t inclined to do any more negotiating on the matter.
The problem for them is that Cullerton has said several times recently that maybe more savings can be squeezed out of the plan he negotiated. He sounds perfectly willing to make changes if that makes the price tag more attractive to lawmakers who think it doesn’t save enough money.
Page 2 of 2 - One advantage of the Senate plan was that supporters could always say it’s a better alternative because it was negotiated and had the support of people affected by the pension changes. That may no longer be an option if the conference committee is successful.
To all the people trying to distort the pay raises in store for some state workers, get some facts.
First, not all state workers are getting a 7.25 percent jump in their salaries July 1, when the new state budget starts. True, several thousand are, but it’s not a case of government run amok with pay raises. It’s because they were stiffed on pay raises due them under the last union contract with the state. That is not union hyperbole, it is the finding of the Illinois court system.
Those workers still won’t get the money that is owed to them from those raises, but their pay schedules will change July 1 to bring them in line as if they had received the raises. Had they been paid the raises they were supposed to get, no one would be talking about 7 percent increases. Those workers would be in line to get the same 2 percent increase as the union workers who weren’t cheated out of the raises.
You can debate if the union contracts were too generous; just don’t distort what’s going on.
Doug Finke of the State Capitol Bureau can be reached at (217) 788-1527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.