Top House Republican thinks Democrats purposely haven’t passed pensions

June 12, 2013

(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross tells reporters Wednesday he believes Democrats are purposely not passing pension reform for political gain.

The top Republican in the Illinois House of Representatives says he thinks Democratic leaders are purposely not passing pension reform for their own political gain.

There are lots of conspiracies for why pension reform hasn’t been approved, from the basic stance that it’s purely a legal debate over how to interpret the constitution, to another, more complex thought: that the powerful House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan is stalling because it would somehow help his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, become governor in next year’s election.

Lisa Madigan has only said she’s considering a run for governor. Today - House Republican leader Tom Cross was asked if he subscribes to that second theory.

“Yes,” Cross said.

Cross repeated his answer of “yes” seven times to a series of reporters’ questions that ranged from why Michael Madigan and his fellow Democrat, Senate President John Cullerton, would benefit from it, to how it would help Lisa Madigan’s potential campaign.

Cross eventually expanded on his thoughts, saying Democrats in Illinois are powerful and if the leaders in the Senate and House really wanted pension reform passed, they would’ve done it already.

“The two most powerful guys in the State of Illinois can get anything done,” Cross said. “They pass a tax increase in the middle of the night, highest tax increase in the history of the state. Two guys that passed a pension holiday in the mid-2000s without blinking an eye can’t get this done? Seriously? I mean, seriously?”

For his part, House Speaker Michael Madigan said earlier this week that if he didn’t want pension reform done, he wouldn’t have worked to pass a bill that ultimately failed in the state Senate.

At that same media availability, Cullerton credited Madigan’s passage of the bill in the House with helping get labor groups to the negotiating table and endorse a rival pension bill.

Cross’s comments on Wednesday came on the same day Speaker Madigan filed an amendment on a pension reform bill passed by the State Senate. Madigan’s amendment includes the language that the House had approved earlier in the legislative session, but rivals the Senate plan. A hearing on the amendment is scheduled for next week.

Tony Arnold covers statehouse politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold