Shortly after his “special legislative session on pensions” ended without yielding anything substantive, Governor Pat Quinn promised to call the state’s legislative leaders back to Springfield in early September to hammer out some sort of agreement that, presumably, they would pass in another such session before the November election.
Well, it’s almost not early September anymore and, as Doug Finke in the Springfield State Journal-Register reports, that promise seems likely to be broken.
According to reports from the Democratic National Convention, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was asked about pension reform. He said he has no plans to return to Springfield until after the election. So much for any idea that lawmakers might change pensions before the election.
Pension legislation stalled because of union opposition and because Democrats and Republicans disagree on whether local districts should pay the state’s share of pension costs.
According to Finke, Democrats might decide to take on the pension issue themselves, after the election and, perhaps, after January 1.
Right now, a reform bill that would take effect immediately needs at least a few Republican votes to pass. Even the majority Democrats can’t do it on their own.
But a bill that takes effect next July could be passed (the emphasis on could) with just Democratic votes. So could a bill that takes effect immediately if it passed after Jan. 1.
If the Democrats decide to go it alone, think of what they might try. Not just shifting downstate teacher pension costs to local school districts but also maybe eliminating some business tax breaks (or “closing loopholes,” if that’s your bent) and then devoting the money to paying down pension debt. By doing that, they could throw a bone to the unions that want loophole closures and simultaneously take a jab at the GOP and their business friends.
There are other options. The legislative leaders, Republicans and Democrats, could actually engage with the Illinois labor coalition (IEA, IFT, AFSCME, SEIU, AFL-CIO). Starting with the framework the unions have proposed, all could work toward a fair and constitutional solution to the problem.
It’s the one thing they haven’t tried.
When you meet with your state legislators between now and election day, you might want to mention that. More information on what the unions have offered is here.
By the way, a forum on teacher pensions, sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute, is scheduled for Monday night in Skokie. Details here.