Pat Quinn’s threat to withhold the paychecks of Illinois lawmakers until they pass public pension reform shows initiative by the Governor, but could backfire as no more than a populist stunt, according to Senator Jim Oberweis.
“Threatening to withhold legislative salaries until pension reform is passed is a high-risk decision by the Governor, one that can be easily overridden by the Legislature,” Senator Oberweis said. “But – to give credit where credit is due – at least he is doing something to focus attention on the issue. If a legislative pay freeze is upheld, there could be nothing more effective to get the players engaged and get this pension mess resolved. However, the risk is that legislators might enact a plan that would do little to solve the problem in order to again start receiving their pay, instead of passing comprehensive reform like Senate Bill 2026, which would permanently fix the problem.”
The 25th District Senator said he supports Senate Bill 2026, a pension reform plan proposed by the Illinois Policy Institute, because it would pass constitutional muster, would immediately cut Illinois’ $100 billion unfunded pension liability by nearly half, and would protect the benefits earned to date by current government workers. Future benefits would accrue in new defined-contribution plans.
A joint Senate-House Conference Committee continued to seek compromise on pension reforms, meeting for a third time July 9 in Springfield, after meetings July 3 and June 27 in Chicago.
Senator Oberweis said the Conference Committee is trying to accomplish a task that has eluded the Governor and his legislative allies for years – finding a pension reform solution that will attract enough votes to pass the Legislature and pass constitutional muster.
“Unfortunately, the Governor has been absent from the committee meetings, preferring instead to criticize from the sidelines rather than lead negotiations for a solution,” Senator Oberweis said. “Leaders must lead and take the risks that leadership requires. Our Governor has, so far, failed to take a true leadership role, fearing that he might offend the unions.”