What A Mess: The State Of Illinois

July 16, 2013

Politically Speaking – July 16, 2013

With nearly $100 billion in unfunded pension liability, Democratic Gov. Quinn suspended Illinois lawmakers’ pay last Wednesday as he promised to do if they failed to come up with solution to the serious pension crisis, the worst of any state in the nation. Quinn said he used his line item veto power in a budget bill that was on his desk and said he would forgo a salary as well until a deal has been reached.

In the meantime, Republican Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka said she’s seeking a legal opinion to determine if Quinn’s suspension of pay for lawmakers is constitutional. Unfortunately, the $100 billion in unfunded pension liability was created because Illinois lawmakers have either not authorized payments or didn’t appropriate enough to the State’s retirement system for decades, in essence, robbing the pension plans. Our past governors are not blameless either in this underfunding. Because of the pension crisis not being solved, this led to downgrades in credit ratings for the state, in turn, costing the taxpayers at least an additional $130 million in interest payments for a bond sale in June because of the lowered credit rating.

Quinn has set a number of deadlines, including two special sessions, for lawmakers to solve the problem but the pension crisis remains unsolved. The Democratic controlled General Assembly has been unable to agree on a plan to address the pension shortfall for years.

Lawmakers’ next paychecks are due August 1; if they haven’t come up with a plan, they won’t get paid. By the way, Quinn did not cut his salary from the budget. We received the press release below from the office of our State Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) in reaction to Gov. Pat Quinn’s announcement last week that Quinn vetoed a budget line item that provides legislator salaries in the 2014 fiscal year which began July 1 of this year.

McCarter said, “I share the Governor’s frustration with the lack of real public pension reform. I’ve introduced several proposals, which have languished because of a very politically-controlled legislative process but I don’t see how this stunt is going to contribute to an environment of cooperation and compromise. He obviously did not read the book, ‘How to win friends and influence people.’ Legitimate reform must be fair and affordable for taxpayers and public employees alike. The underfunding crisis (estimated at $100 billion) threatens to undermine the state’s ability to fund critical services such as education and public safety, it also passes huge tax burdens on generations of Illinoisans and it puts the pension systems in jeopardy of financial collapse. True reform must also hold the Legislature accountable for making future pension payments that they failed to make in the past so the pension funds are sustainable. I agree, we must do something as soon as possible. However, this attempt to threaten the General Assembly is Blagovich-like behavior, and we know how that turned out.” McCarter went on to say, “In fact, a majority of legislators have voted for pension reform bills and different measures have passed both the House and Senate, but the Governor has been unable to get his two legislative leaders — the Senate President and the House Speaker — to agree on an approach.”

On to Concealed Carry / Right to Carry. The Second Amendment is alive and well in the state of Illinois. Sen. Kyle McCarter, on Right To Carry or Concealed Carry law said, “It is on the books,” rejecting the Governor’s attempt to undermine the Concealed Carry law approved in the spring session was the highlight of the week and it was the sole reason lawmakers were brought back to Springfield for a “special session” day of work. “Tuesday, July 9 was a great day for law-abiding gun owners in Illinois. We were able to beat back the Governor’s veto attempt to weaken the law that was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the spring and in the end a separate and new legislative effort in the Senate, which would also have weakened that measure, died when it failed to get enough votes for passage in the House.”

skyad1Sen. McCarter voted for the veto override and against the Senate measure sponsored by the Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago. “For years, while attempts at passing a Concealed Carry law were thwarted by mostly Chicago area lawmakers we’ve also had to guard against and fight off numerous attempts to restrict Second Amendment rights by some of those same legislators,” said McCarter.

A final thought: Gov. Quinn at this time is preparing for a 2014 re-election bid, even though his approval ratings are sinking. In the running for Governor in the Democratic Primary is former House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and it’s been rumored that Speaker of the House Michael Madigan’s daughter Lisa Madigan is up for the challenge. And at least four Republicans have said they will try to unseat Quinn.

In closing, my only comment is, as I’ve said before, if we keep voting the same way, we’ll keep getting the same thing, and that’s not good.