Madigan Blames Republican Intransigence for Pension Stalemate
By Amanda Vinicky
Illinois Republicans had a theme last week when they met in Tampa for the Republican National Convention: Fire Madigan. The GOP blames House Speaker Michael Madigan for letting Illinois slide into a fiscal mess, but Madigan says it's Republicans who are unwilling to do what he calls the "heavy lifting."
The "Fire Madigan" message is more than a slogan for Illinois Republicans. It is an all-out marketing campaign, flush with T-shirts, buttons and even a baby bib that read "Fire Madigan."
Meanwhile, Speaker Madigan has his own commentary on the GOP:
"The Illinois Republicans in the legislature have a choice," Madigan said. "They can stand as they do on the sidelines and carp about this, or they can come on the playing field."
Especially when it comes to doing something about the state's underfunded pensions. Republicans are against plans that would have schools, instead of the state, pick up the tab for their employees' retirement benefits. The GOP said that would result in higher property taxes. Madigan said it is time to end schools' free lunch.
"I think the Republicans ought to be engaged," he said. "They may choose not to be engaged. Which would leave me no option to try and work to pass a bill without the Republicans."
There are enough Democrats in the General Assembly to pass a pension overhaul without any GOP support. However, Madigan stresses it is a difficult, contentious issue, and getting the votes to reduce teachers' and state workers' pensions won't be easy.