Illinois Lawmakers End Third Pension Meeting
By Amanda Vinicky, with additional reporting from The Associated Press
A bipartisan panel finished a third meeting on Monday about the state's $97 billion pension crisis as another deadline set by Gov. Pat Quinn is set to lapse without a solution.
They may not be doing it in public, but members of the special legislative committee formed to tackle Illinois' underfunded pension systems say they have made progress.
On Monday, the committee mostly expressed concerns that Gov. Quinn is setting their efforts back.
Quinn is typical of a governor, or any politician really - he likes to take credit for getting things done. Even when it's something he had little to do with, but in this case, he is deserving.
It was at Quinn's insistence that legislators formed a special, bipartisan committee, half representatives, half senators.
That was a setup that even Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who is running to replace Quinn, said is working.
"I do believe in all of my involvement over the last couple years that we have come as close in a bipartisan, bicameral way amongst ourselves of getting toward a solution," Brady said.
But legislators say it could all be undermined if Quinn makes good on his vague threat of "consequences" if they don't get a final package to his desk by the end of Tuesday.
There is speculation Quinn has held off signing major parts of the budget because he will use it as punishment.
Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Chicago) and other lawmakers on the pension committee say Quinn's tactics are unproductive. Committee members continually warned Quinn's staff that that sort of interference would hinder their efforts.
"It's important for the process and for us to work constructively, and not for us to be demonized," Zalewski said.
But lawmakers have also slammed the governor for his lack of involvement, like sending a top aide to Monday's hearing instead of attending himself.
Quinn said committee members know where he stands and that his budget office will speak on his behalf.
An aide to Quinn told committee members because it is a legislative committee, it is not the governor's place to participate.
Committee chair Kwame Raoul said it takes time to craft legislation and called for the governor to cast politics aside.
Illinois' unfunded pension liability is the worst in the nation.