Saturday, June 15, 2013

You’d think the gov would know better; we’re going nowhere on pension reform

Reading the Chicago Sun-Times account Friday of negotiations toward a sensible way to fund the pension programs overseen by Illinois state government made me wonder how naïve our governor truly can be.

For it seems Gov. Pat Quinn met with the two primary legislative leaders (House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago), and they came up with an agreement that a specific bill will be called for a vote when the General Assembly reconvenes Wednesday.

THAT IS THE day of the special session Quinn ordered up. In theory, the legislators could merely approve that bill, send it to the governor, and Quinn could show us just how mighty he truly is by signing it into law.

Problem solved.

Ah, who’s kidding whom!

Nothing like that scenario is even going to come close to happening come Wednesday.

MADIGAN ALREADY IS going around saying he sees this tactic as being a way for Quinn to distance himself from the failure of Illinois government to resolve this problem.

While Cullerton says he doubts that merely calling a bill will result in success. He expects his legislators to refuse to go along.

Reading about Quinn’s desires – which amount to calling together a conference committee and having them try to put together a compromise that everybody could vote for – just sounds so absurd.

It’s as though Quinn thinks he can shame the General Assembly into voting “yes” for something just so they won’t have to put up with any more harassment from outside interests about how this problem could drag on for so many years.

BUT I’D ARGUE the fact that this problem has dragged on for so many years and has been through so many “last chance to avoid disaster” deadlines means that the legislators are immune to such hysterical talk.

It also means many of them are likely to want to keep putting off the problem indefinitely.

Our legislators feeling ashamed of the fact they haven’t done anything? Our legislators have no shame! If anything, the rank-and-file of the General Assembly probably thinks Quinn is being a hot ball of gas on this issue and ought to get off his high-horse.

Perhaps by trying to come up with his own solution. Which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

WHICH IS WHY we’re stuck in this stalemate, and the increases in money needed to meet the pension obligations will continue to grow to the point where they will overwhelm all else and take money away from the pet causes that many legislators would prefer to spend tax dollars on.

The problem is that this really has become a political pissing match between the legislative leaders on the Democratic side – with both Madigan and Cullerton having their own preferred solutions.

I doubt many of the legislators really comprehend exactly what it is those proposals would do. They merely think of it as showing their loyalty to their legislative leader. Or more likely, knowing how much they’d be punished politically for any actions that could be perceived as disloyal.

I’m at least glad to learn that Quinn is backing away from the silly talk that the Legislature somehow pass a bill that incorporates both plans – with the idea being that the Cullerton plan that is not on as large a cost-saving scale as the Madigan plan would be used as a backup for state government.

IN THE EVENT that the courts ultimately find the Madigan vision to be unconstitutional – because no matter what happens, somebody is going to file suit in the courts because they’re going to claim their pension benefits are wrongly being taken away from them.

And why Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is going out of her way to avoid putting her office on either side of this legal equation. Why kick off a potential gubernatorial campaign by having half the Legislature think you screwed up on pension reform?
Because the only thing worse than a Legislature acting stupid may well be one acting indecisive!


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