WBEZ | 2014 campaign http://www.wbez.org/tags/2014-campaign Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The politics behind the pension vote http://www.wbez.org/news/politics-behind-pension-vote-109301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dan montgomery.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois lawmakers have approved a long-awaited plan to restructure retirement benefits for state employees and Gov. Pat Quinn says he&rsquo;ll sign the bill into law.</p><p>But labor groups are vowing to sue, saying the measure unlawfully cuts the pensions of their members.</p><p>And even though the dialogue around changing the pension benefits of state employees started years ago, the proposal sets up a big fight for next year&rsquo;s election.</p><p>Legislative leaders gave themselves a week - a holiday week, at that - to sell the bill to their own members. Senate President John Cullerton spent Tuesday morning meeting privately with his senators to get them on board.</p><p>Republican House Leader Jim Durkin says the short timeframe made for a busy home stretch.</p><p>&ldquo;I had people running in and running out over the last 24 hours,&rdquo; he said in an interview after Tuesday&rsquo;s vote. &ldquo;Talking to every member, every question.&rdquo;</p><p>Except, Durkin said, there may have been an ulterior motive behind some of the questions he was getting from his own fellow Republicans.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll say some questions weren&rsquo;t exactly sincere. So that&rsquo;s politics. That&rsquo;s what we live in,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But there was a lot of - to say that it got a little tense is an understatement.&rdquo;</p><p>Durkin said some Republicans had legitimate concerns. For instance, he says some downstate GOP representatives have a lot of state employees in their districts, especially those with prisons. Meantime, others want to move state pension funds into 401K style plans -- and nothing else would do.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people I will just say that their reasoning is not reasonable and I question it because of the dynamics of what&rsquo;s going on in the State of Illinois over this next year,&rdquo; Durkin said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a political season and some people believe that we shouldn&rsquo;t deliver a win to the Democrats.&rdquo;</p><p>The logic goes: If Republicans blocked yesterday&rsquo;s pensions vote, Democrats - and Governor Pat Quinn - would look bad for not getting the job done come Election Day. That&rsquo;s a claim reiterated by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who&rsquo;s also chair of the Illinois Democratic Party.</p><p>&ldquo;I find Bruce Rauner to be particularly disingenuous with his approach to this,&rdquo; Madigan said.</p><p>Rauner is a venture capitalist running for governor who opposes the pension deal.</p><p>&ldquo;My view is that (Rauner) would like to blow it up so that he would maintain a campaign issue,&rdquo; Madigan said. &ldquo;So with the passage of the bill and the anticipated signature by the governor, why, Rauner has lost one of his campaign issues.&rdquo;</p><p>In response to Madigan&rsquo;s claim, a Rauner spokesman said the Republican thinks the plan is a bad one. After the vote, Rauner released a statement saying the pension bill doesn&rsquo;t go far enough.</p><p>When asked if Rauner and his allies made the pension vote more complicated for Republican senators, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said, &ldquo;Absolutely it made it more complicated.&rdquo;</p><p>She said if the vote had taken place at another time - and not three months before the primary - the votes might have been different. When asked why Rauner, who&rsquo;s never held political office, could influence lawmakers so much, Radogno said it&rsquo;s not just about Rauner&rsquo;s political influence, but also his money.</p><p>And Rauner has a lot of it.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, people think about campaign funding. They think about what support they&rsquo;ll get when they&rsquo;re running. They think about their own political futures. They think about the people that are around Bruce Rauner and how they relate to them and their campaigns,&rdquo; Radogno said.</p><p>There are three other Republicans in the primary for governor.</p><p>State Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, was the only candidate to support the pension bill.</p><p>Twenty percent of the current budget&rsquo;s revenue goes toward pensions. Brady says that number will only get worse - and the remaining money isn&rsquo;t enough to pay for education and other government services.</p><p>State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Westmont, wanted more time to review the legislation - and voted no. But his pick for Lieutenant Governor in next year&rsquo;s campaign, State Representative Jil Tracy of Quincy, voted yes.</p><p>Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he thinks it&rsquo;s unconstitutional.</p><p>On the Democratic side, incumbent Pat Quinn, who&rsquo;s running for re-election, could face some opposition from a group who previously supported him: labor unions.</p><p>&ldquo;I do think, as I said, this is the triumph of politics over the rule of law in this state, so I would imagine there are political consequences all around,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, the head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.</p><p>When asked what those consequences will be, Montgomery replied, &ldquo;Well, that&rsquo;s yet to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>But with a lawsuit from the unions imminent, the issue isn&rsquo;t likely to disappear before next year&rsquo;s election.</p><p>Already, Chicago and Cook County officials are wondering how the vote will affect their own pension systems.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement shortly after the legislature approved the pension bill.</p><p>&ldquo;The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>State lawmakers agree.</p><p>State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove, said that while some of the state&rsquo;s pension systems are poorly funded, Chicago&rsquo;s teachers&rsquo; retirement plans are perhaps even worse.</p><p>&ldquo;Our work on pensions is by no means done, but this will let a lot of air back in the room to start addressing the other systems,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said county employees&rsquo; retirement system&rsquo;s unfunded liability grew by $1 billion last year, and also needs state intervention.</p><p>Meantime, House Republican Leader Durkin said he&rsquo;ll work with Mayor Emanuel, even though he&rsquo;s with the opposing political party.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.&nbsp;</em><em>Illinois Public Radio&rsquo;s Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/AmandaVinicky">@amandavinicky</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 13:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics-behind-pension-vote-109301