WBEZ | Illinois Governor Pat Quinn http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-governor-pat-quinn Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Hey (future) governor! Here's what you should talk about! http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hey-future-governor-heres-what-you-should-talk-about-109594 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: WBEZ&#39;s Tony Arnold and Alex Keefe would still LOVE to have your politics-related questions (and others), but their focused campaign to solicit questions about the 2014 race for Illinois governor has ended. What came of it? Many <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/archive/race-for-illinois-governor">great questions </a>about the political process, the state&#39;s future governor and much more! Tony and Alex will be taking on several of those questions, but they also placed three into a <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/voting_rounds/50">Curious City voting round</a>, to let people like you decide which should be the highest priority.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Illinois voters head to the polls March 18 to select their party&rsquo;s candidate for Illinois governor.</p><p>How&rsquo;s this involve you? WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City is looking for the questions you feel are important but the candidates for governor may not be talking about. We suspect some issues will get a lot of coverage: tax policy, pensions, guns and same-sex marriage. But what more do you want to know? The candidates&rsquo; positions on Illinois&rsquo; nuclear power industry? Animal rights? Or, maybe you&rsquo;ve always wondered what goes on inside a campaign.</p><p><a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/">Write your question </a>about Illinois&rsquo; 2014 governor&rsquo;s race right now, and &mdash; if you&#39;re using a PC or Mac &mdash; it helps to&nbsp;select the category &quot;Race for Illinois governor.&quot; Here&#39;s what to look for at the top of the page:</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org " target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CC%20screenshot%20for%20Al_Tony%20story.png" style="height: 64px; width: 600px;" title="" /></a></div><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s political reporters Alex Keefe and Tony Arnold will pore over the questions, looking out for ones that can broaden &mdash; and maybe even shake up &mdash; this election.</p><p>If you have to sort out who&rsquo;s running in the March 18 primary, the Illinois State Board of Elections keeps an updated <a href="http://www.elections.state.il.us/ElectionInformation/CandList.aspx?SearchType=office&amp;ListType=RESULTS+OF+SEARCH+BY+OFFICE&amp;ElectionID=41&amp;ElectionType=GP&amp;ElectionDate=3%2f18%2f2014&amp;ElectionYear=2014&amp;QueryType=CANDIDATE&amp;OfficeIDSearchType=Matches&amp;OfficeID=6746&amp;StatusSearchType=Matches&amp;Status=AP&amp;OrderBy=ORDER+BY+OfficeBallotGroup%2c+OfficeSequence%2c+PartySequence%2cFileDateTime%2cvwCandidates.Sequence%2cvwCandidates.ID%2cLotteryLastName%2cLotteryFirstName">list of candidates</a>.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him on <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a>&nbsp;is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 18:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/hey-future-governor-heres-what-you-should-talk-about-109594 With Daley out, Democratic challengers face low voter turnout http://www.wbez.org/news/daley-out-democratic-challengers-face-low-voter-turnout-108744 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS6642_voting sign AP-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Now that Bill Daley has dropped out of the race for Illinois governor, it&rsquo;s possible no Democrat running statewide will face a primary challenger. And without competitive races at the top of the ballot, Democratic challengers in down-ballot races are bracing for low turnout in their districts.</p><p>Take Will Guzzardi.</p><p>He wants to represent parts of Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side in the Illinois House of Representatives. To do that, he&rsquo;ll have to beat incumbent State Rep. Toni Berrios in the Democratic primary.</p><p>In the last election, Guzzardi lost to Berrios by 125 votes.</p><p>He said Monday that he expects another tough fight, considering Democrats running for U.S. senator, governor, and others might not have opponents at the top of the ticket to draw people to the polls in the March primary.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an off-season primary with nothing interesting at the top of the ballot,&rdquo; Guzzardi said. &ldquo;So you have to explain to them, &lsquo;Here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s at stake in a legislative race like this.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Guzzardi said as he&rsquo;s collecting signatures to get on the ballot, he&rsquo;s trying to get potential voters interested in Springfield&rsquo;s influence over issues like safety and public schools.</p><p>Tio Hardiman is collecting signatures to try to get on the Democratic ballot to challenge incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>Meantime, Kent Redfield, a University of Illinois at Springfield political science professor, said Republicans could see higher turnout in the primary, since four members of the GOP are running for governor.</p><p>He said one candidate for governor in particular, Bruce Rauner, is trying to bring in new Republican voters to the primary.</p><p>&ldquo;That helps somebody down ballot who&rsquo;s also trying to get people who might not vote or might not be - or the regular kind of Republican voters that normally show up in a primary,&rdquo; Redfield said.</p><p>Republican State Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard and Treasurer Dan Rutherford are also running for governor.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 23 Sep 2013 14:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/daley-out-democratic-challengers-face-low-voter-turnout-108744 Slots at O’Hare, Midway Airports still up in the air http://www.wbez.org/news/slots-o%E2%80%99hare-midway-airports-still-air-107017 <p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said he&rsquo;ll be reviewing a new gambling expansion bill that passed the state senate this week, including the part about adding slot machines to Chicago&rsquo;s airports. Quinn has vetoed two plans to expand gambling in recent years that would&rsquo;ve added casinos around Illinois, including one in Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">One of those failed bills included a measure that allowed O&rsquo;Hare International and Midway Airports to install slots.</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn has been critical of slots at airports before. And that component is back in the latest gambling expansion bill approved by state senators.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The governor&rsquo;s point of view on this is very critical to making it happen,&rdquo; said State Rep. Lou Lang, who&rsquo;s supporting the bill in the House.</p><p dir="ltr">Lang said the whole concept of adding slots at O&rsquo;Hare and Midway is still up in the air.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I am not in any way wedded to it,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Lang said it&rsquo;s still being negotiated.</p><br /><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 03 May 2013 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/slots-o%E2%80%99hare-midway-airports-still-air-107017 Pension costs projected to take up nearly a fifth of Illinois' general budget http://www.wbez.org/news/pension-costs-projected-take-nearly-fifth-illinois-general-budget-105928 <p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to announce Wednesday that the state will spend almost a fifth of its general budget on pension payments next year.</p><p>In his budget address to state lawmakers, Quinn is expected to detail how he wants the state government to spend about $35.6 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. His budget office estimated the state will spend 19 percent of its general budget, more than $6 billion, on pension benefits alone.</p><p>&ldquo;This is extremely painful presentation that we&rsquo;re making,&rdquo; said Quinn&rsquo;s budget director, Jerry Stermer.</p><p>Stermer said that because more money would be going to pay teachers, judges and other state workers&rsquo; retirement benefits, there would be less cash for other state programs, including public schools.</p><p>Lawmakers have proposed some various measures to address the state&#39;s growing pension costs and $97 billion in unfunded liabilities, but legislative leaders and the governor have not come to an agreement.</p><p>Stermer said the governor is not proposing new taxes or fees in next year&rsquo;s budget. After Quinn won election in 2011, he raised the personal income tax and corporate income tax. Those rates are scheduled to drop somewhat in 2015, although it&rsquo;s likely to be a key topic of debate during next year&rsquo;s race for governor.</p><p>Meanwhile, the state is also dealing with a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what-state-illinoiss-fiscal-house-105924">backlog of bills in the billions</a>, often paying vendors late. The governor&rsquo;s staff wouldn&rsquo;t say how he&rsquo;s proposing to cut the money owed, but his budget office projects the total backlog will be cut from $7.5 billion to $6.8 billion next year.</p></p> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/pension-costs-projected-take-nearly-fifth-illinois-general-budget-105928 The Ghost of Illinois Pensions Yet to Come http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/ghost-illinois-pensions-yet-come-104489 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F71955067" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/ghosts-illinois-pensions-past-104467">Earlier this week we received a visit</a>&nbsp;from the Ghosts of Pensions Past which shed light on how Illinois came to have the worst-funded pension system in the country. Basically, for decades Springfield chronically shortchanged the pension piggybank&nbsp;&ndash; not unlike Ebenezer Scrooge.</p><p>Now, we continue our series by looking at how we dig ourselves out of this mess with a visit from the Ghost of Pensions Yet To Come. What will Illinois state employees be saying about their retirement plans 30 years from now, based on the decisions made today?</p><p>If you&rsquo;re still not sure how bad Illinois&rsquo; current pension crisis is, well, clearly you haven&rsquo;t been paying much attention to Gov. Pat Quinn.&nbsp;Quinn has compared the current pension situation to the Battle at Waterloo, the sinking of the Titanic and more recently, the fiscal cliff. He&#39;s even talked about it in somewhat cosmic terms.</p><p>&quot;We can accomplish something that will last far beyond our years here on earth,&quot; Quinn said earlier this month.</p><p>Basically what you need to know is this: Illinois is $95 billion dollars in the hole when it comes to funding its state worker&rsquo;s pensions systems.&nbsp;It took <a href="http://www.wbez.org/illinois-pension-problems-go-back-decades-104454">decades</a> for the state to get in this fix. And it may take at least that long to get out of it, which is why the governor often talks in terms of legacy.&nbsp;Whatever is done to deal with pensions now could have an impact on the state&rsquo;s finances for the long haul.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a thorny problem, one that has bedeviled Illinois politicians for years.&nbsp;So the question now is, who will answer the call?</p><p>Well, Daniel Biss for one. Biss is fairly new to the Illinois Statehouse and represents the 17th District in the House of Representatives.&nbsp;When the north suburban Democrat was first elected, he actually volunteered to serve on the two pension committees.</p><p>&quot;Of course, I didn&rsquo;t understand that nobody wants to be on the pension committee,&quot; Biss said in an interview.</p><p>When asked if the pensions committee was anything like sitting at the lunch table with the cool kids, Biss said, &quot;You know, I come from mathematics. So I don&rsquo;t even know how to find the cool kids table in the cafeteria, but I&rsquo;m pretty sure this isn&rsquo;t it.&quot;</p><p>Biss used to teach math, but not just any math. He taught algebraic topology.</p><p>&quot;So what that was, still is, without me, is using algebraic structures to study higher dimensional geometric spaces,&quot; he said.</p><p>So if Biss can use algebraic structures to understand higher dimensional geometric spaces, then pensions should be a breeze, right?</p><p>&quot;Well let me begin by leveling with you,&quot; Biss said. &quot;It has not been the case that the exact work I did as a mathematician has carried over directly into pension work.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fortner.JPG" style="float: right; height: 224px; width: 300px;" title="State Representative Mike Fortner. (Tony Arnold/WBEZ)" />Okay, so who else we got?</div><p>How about Republican State Representative Mike Fortner? Fortner teachers physics at Northern Illinois University and is a particle physicist at Fermilab who&rsquo;s spent 20 years studying the nature of matter.</p><p>But he also has been studying the state&#39;s pension situation.</p><p>&quot;When I started looking at the pension problem, to me, seeing something that was growing too fast for our revenue, this looks like a math problem that you oughta be able to take a spreadsheet and unroll the spreadsheet and put in numbers and say, &lsquo;What will it take to make the pension system sustainable?&rsquo;&quot; Fortner said.</p><p>Fortner may be onto something here. Let&rsquo;s run with that math problem idea.</p><p>Imagine Professor Fortner and Professor Biss are standing at a chalkboard.&nbsp;If funding proposal x is added to proposal y is added to proposal z, what will it take to zero out the $95 billion pension debt?</p><p>There are lots of potential answers, some more divisive than others, but let&rsquo;s look at just four of them.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/idea1.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Fortner likes the idea of giving employees&rsquo; a choice to enter into a plan similar to a 401K, where the employee manages their own investment strategy. He&nbsp;said some university employees around Illinois already have plans like this, so the state can more easily predict what it&rsquo;s getting into.</div><p>&quot;They have a choice as to what system they are going into,&quot; Fortner said.</p><p>Fortner said he&rsquo;s crunched the numbers and this idea can work.&nbsp;Then again, many analysts say it won&rsquo;t save enough money.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/idea2%20copy.jpg" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Retired state employees currently get pay bumps each year to help them keep up with the increasing costs of, well, everything.&nbsp;Biss said those pay bumps are expensive.</div></div><p>&quot;I think everybody agrees you can&rsquo;t solve the problem without having some impact on that,&quot; he said.</p><p>Biss has proposed delaying those pay increases to later in an employees&rsquo; retirement.&nbsp;But Fortner said the state has already committed to those pay bumps and they&rsquo;d be hard to change.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/idea3.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Arguably the most controversial idea involves straight up changing who pays for pensions for downstate and suburban teachers.&nbsp;Currently, the state pays which Biss says makes no sense.</div><p>&quot;If you were to blow everything up and restart, you would never come up with the current system,&quot; Biss said. &quot;You would never say the school districts don&rsquo;t even have the retirement costs of their employees on their budget.&quot;</p><p>This funding proposal would gradually make each school district pay.&nbsp;But Fortner says school districts would need more cash, which would have to come from somewhere.</p><p>&quot;In the districts I represent, most of the revenue has to come from the property taxes and property taxes are already pretty high and that&rsquo;s one thing that the public pretty frequently says, &#39;We don&rsquo;t want to see higher property taxes,&#39;&quot; Fortner said.</p><p>And that brings us to the impact these will have on state employees who have been banking on these pensions.&nbsp;How do they feel?</p><p>&quot;Truthfully, I don&rsquo;t like the sound of a whole bunch of stuff,&quot; said&nbsp;Patricia Ousley, who has worked for the state&rsquo;s unemployment office in Chicago for more than 36 years.&nbsp;She&rsquo;s also very active in the union and is the president of Local 1006.</p><p>Ousley said she put in her money for retirement, but the state didn&rsquo;t hold up its end of the bargain. Now she worries about all these new pension formulas and how they might affect someone like her who&rsquo;s looking to retire soon.</p><p>&quot;I do have grandkids and I spoil them when I can just because I can, because they&rsquo;re grandkids,&quot; she said. &quot;And you want to have money to do that and I think once I leave here, being on a set income, those things will be depleted somewhat. I won&rsquo;t be able to do what I do now.&quot;</p><p>Ousley said she doesn&rsquo;t know what it will take to make the pensions sustainable.&nbsp;But she suggests raising taxes.&nbsp;</p><p>The problem is almost everyone agrees that raising taxes isn&rsquo;t going to fix the problem; that pension costs are rising too fast.&nbsp;So it will likely take more than one idea to get the state out of this jam, which brings up its own issues. Namely, a little thing called the Illinois Constitution.</p><p>&quot;You have to understand that we have a constitution which is very specific about how you deal with changing pensions. You cannot unilaterally pass a law to reduce someone&rsquo;s pension,&quot; said Illinois Senate President&nbsp;John Cullerton, who&nbsp;has his own plan.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/idea4.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Cullerton wants to offer state workers like Ousley a choice: take a cut in health care or take a cut in pay bumps retirees&rsquo; get every year.</div><p>Cullerton, who already passed the plan in the Senate, said the beauty of his formula is that employees get to choose. According to the Senate leader, that makes it the most legally sound option out there.&nbsp;But Biss, who would still have to vote for it in the House, &nbsp;is critical of the plan.</p><p>&quot;On a human level, if you&rsquo;re asking someone to choose between health care and their pension, it doesn&rsquo;t feel like a positive choice,&quot; Biss said.</p><p>So where does this leave things?</p><p>Well, unfortunately it&rsquo;s not just a math problem, it&rsquo;s also a political and legal problem.&nbsp;If the courts strike down whatever may be approved, some lawmakers worry they&rsquo;ll end up back at the chalkboard, essentially erasing all those equations for pension reform we mentioned.</p><p>That means future Illinoisans could be dealing with this for years to come.</p><p>If so, Daniel Biss&rsquo;s kid already has a head start.<br /><br />&quot;My older son is four years old and the other day he was saying to my wife, &#39;Mommy, I just hope that I have a pension,&#39;&quot; Biss said. &quot;I don&rsquo;t know if he knows what a pension is, but he knows two things: One, that there are things that make you nervous, and two, there are things that you hope are going to be there for you.</p><p>That&#39;s something just about everyone can agree on.</p></p> Wed, 19 Dec 2012 16:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/ghost-illinois-pensions-yet-come-104489 Judge rules against Quinn; says state can't close prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/judge-rules-against-quinn-says-state-cant-close-prisons-103041 <p><p>A downstate Illinois judge ruled against the closure of seven state facilities Wednesday, which includes two prisons and two juvenile centers and three adult transition centers. The ruling marks a victory for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME,&nbsp;the labor union that represents many state employees, including those who work at those facilities.&nbsp;</p><p>AFSCME had sued to keep the facilities open. It argued in court that closing the prisons and adult transition centers had the potential to create dangerous working conditions for both employees and inmates. Union representatives who worked at those seven targeted facilities told stories of overcrowded conditions for inmates at some state prisons and dangerous working conditions for employees at others. Attorneys for the labor union argued closing more facilities would make working conditions even worse.</p><p>&quot;We think it&#39;s high time for the governor to stop wasting taxpayer money on these lawsuits and arbitrations,&quot; said Henry Bayer, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31. &quot;Instead he should be using those monies to make sure that our prisons and communities are safe.&quot;</p><p>In his decision, Judge Charles Cavaness wrote that AFSCME proved &quot;irreparable harm&quot;would come if the facilities closed because the employees &quot;may suffer physical injuries that cannot be fully remedied later.&quot;</p><p>Abdon Pallasch, a spokesman for Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn, said the office will be appealing the decision directly to the state Supreme Court. He said the facilities are not being used to their full capacity and are costing taxpayers $7 million a month to keep them open and staffed. The governor has said cuts in many government services were necessary because of increased unpaid pension obligations and a massive debt the state owes.</p><p>In court filings, attorneys for the state argued that working in a prison is an inherently dangerous job and that there is no such thing as a safe prison. Attorneys said that AFSCME had only speculated and not presented any real evidence that working conditions will be more dangerous if the closures are allowed to go forward.&nbsp;</p><p>One of the facilities targeted to close is the supermax prison in Tamms, Ill., which costs about $26 million a year to operate. Rob Osborne, the president of AFSCME Local 993 who works at the Vandalia Correctional Center, had testified that overcrowding and short staffing were problems. He said that if the Tamms prison closes, it would move dangerous inmates into his prison, which doesn&#39;t have cells, just beds in open spaces. He predicted there would be more violence in the Vandalia prison if Tamms is allowed to close.</p><p>The legal battle is one of several recent disputes AFSCME has had with the governor. Quinn won election in 2010 with large support from labor groups. But AFSCME has protested the governor in recent months, even booing him at a Democratic event at the Illinois State Fair in August.</p></p> Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/judge-rules-against-quinn-says-state-cant-close-prisons-103041 Quinn bashes Romney in speech to DNC http://www.wbez.org/series/boys-bus/quinn-bashes-romney-speech-dnc-102168 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/quinn_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In his speech to the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday evening, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn took the opportunity to accuse Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of lying in his campaign.</p><p>Quinn attacked Romney&#39;s record as governor of Massachusetts, saying the Republican candidate promised his state more jobs, less debt and smaller government, but left his term with the opposite results.</p><p>Quinn spent a substantial part of his speech rallying the crowd by praising Barack Obama&#39;s work on reforming welfare as an Illinois state senator. Quinn also mentioned a Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Ill., a story he has frequently mentioned at news conferences around the state. Quinn said the plant employeed 200 people in 2009, but President Obama saved the auto industry and that same plant now employes more than 4,000 people.</p><p>&quot;From day one, President Obama has told you where he stands, what he believes and what he is doing to make our middle class strong again,&quot; Quinn told the DNC.</p><p>Quinn ended his convention speech with a phrase he has repeated countless times at news events and speeches he&#39;s delivered around Illinois, saying, &quot;Together let&#39;s make the will of the people the law of the land.&quot;</p><p>After he spoke, Quinn told reporters backstage he was thinking, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t make a mistake,&rdquo; during his speech, he said. &ldquo;I spoke from the heart. I&rsquo;ve known Barack Obama a long time and I thought it was important to set the record straight.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn also said those at the Democratic National Convention gave him a lot of freedom in putting a draft of his speech together. &ldquo;They made a few suggestions, but it was pretty much our speech,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I had to wear my glasses because I can&rsquo;t see the teleprompter without it.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/boys-bus/quinn-bashes-romney-speech-dnc-102168 Quinn, Emanuel don't agree on third airport http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-emanuel-dont-agree-third-airport-97767 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-30/RS3411_3614517444_cf9007fb60.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says building a third airport south of Chicago is very important for the state.</p><p>He's responding to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new plans to build a fourth runway at O'Hare airport. Emanuel said the expansion would be like adding a third airport without building a new one. But Quinn said it's not helpful to have everyone divided.</p><p>"We have a metropolitan area of Chicago that's undeserved in the south - the fastest growing area of our metropolitan area is Will County and South Cook County and we have to have an airport there too," he said.</p><p>At a news conference Thursday with radio reporters, Emanuel was asked whether he supported constructing a new airport in Peotone.</p><p>“I’m opposed to it. That’s why I want to make sure O’Hare’s, uh, modernized,” Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel's plan is part of a $7 billion investment in infrastructure for the city, that he says won't be paid for by taxpayer dollars. When asked about that plan, Quinn said the state already has an infrastructure project in the works that has served Chicago well, and state dollars are being used to fix infrastructure issues in the city.</p></p> Fri, 30 Mar 2012 17:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-emanuel-dont-agree-third-airport-97767