Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he’s still hopeful that lawmakers can reach an agreement on pension reform sooner rather than later.
He’s been meeting with the leaders in both houses over the past few weeks in Chicago, since lawmakers left Springfield without a deal in hand to fund the state’s $83 billion pension deficit.
On Monday, Quinn signed into legislation Senate Bill 179 which creates the position of state actuary to oversee the five state-funded public pension systems. Joined by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), Quinn said the law will increase transparency in the public pension systems.
“We must restore integrity and accountability to the state’s pension systems and we are headed in the right direction,” Quinn said.
But Quinn knows, SB 179 isn’t the bill everyone is waiting for.
“This has to be the year of pension reform once and for all in our state of Illinois. It’s long in coming,’ Quinn said from at a press conference at the Thompson Center. “Frankly, it’s long overdue.”
But getting members to agree isn’t easy.
State Republican lawmakers are opposed to a plan to shift the cost of pensions from the state to suburban and downstate public school districts.
Chicago isn’t included in a pension reform funding package but it currently already funds its teachers’ pensions. Quinn hoped to get a deal in place by the end of June, right about the same time he must sign a new state budget. He is hopeful that can still be achieved but if it isn’t, he’s prepared to keeping pressing.
“We’re prepared to do whatever necessary to get this public pension reform done and behind us,” Quinn said. “We really want to keep pushing the leaders and members to do what they know in their heart is the right thing to do.”
Under the cost shifting plan, public universities and community colleges would gradually pick up the costs of employee pensions. Quinn says the presidents of public universities and community colleges support the move.
Currie, meanwhile, is confident an agreement can be reached still this summer, well ahead the general election in November when state lawmakers are up for re-election. She said the four leaders of the House and Senate agree in principal to the cost shift but she cautions that may not be enough.
“Even if the leaders agree, that doesn’t mean all of the members of the General Assembly will follow along,” Currie said.