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Quinn says fixing credit requires reform

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said the state must get its pension debt under control this year.

At a press conference Tuesday, Quinn said pension reform would be one of his top priorities for the legislative session that starts January 31st.

Last year, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Republican Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) worked on a bill that would give state workers, teachers and other members of the state's pensions systems - except police and fire personnel - choices over how to fund their pensions going forward.

One of the options would require them to pay more toward their retirements, a concept that some in the legal community believe is unconstitutional.

But inaction toward pensions gave Moody's Investors Service a reason last week to downgrade the state's credit rating to the worst in the country. That means borrowing money will cost Illinois taxpayers more going forward.

"We don’t want that. We want to be on the upgrade," Quinn said.

Moody's cited the state’s pension debt as one reason for the downgrade, saying political leaders, “Took no steps to implement lasting solutions.”

Quinn wouldn’t explain exactly how he plans to fix the problem but he blamed 30 years of inaction by the General Assembly and former governors for the debt.

"Our time has come. Our rendezvous with pension reality will come this year," he said.

He has formed a working group to look at options and says he’ll explain more during his State of the State Address on Feb. 1.

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