Thursday, November 28, 2013

Problem solved? Or is pension funding mess just stepping up to new level

It seems that Illinois state government will actually manage to resolve the long-standing pension funding shortfall it has faced for years. The Legislature is scheduled to meet Tuesday, and officials say they expect a vote on that day.

MADIGAN: Reached a pension funding deal
Then again, it could also be that the Legislature (and later, Gov. Pat Quinn) will merely declare “Victory!” and move on from considering this issue – leaving it to the courts to ultimately decide whether whatever solution gets approved is actually valid.

YES, IT’S VERY true. The courts could find whatever gets approved next week to be unconstitutional – which means we could be back in trouble come the future.

Possibly sometime after Monsieurs Madigan, Cullerton and Quinn are around the political scene.

Now I’m not saying I know for sure that the compromise that the General Assembly’s leaders said they reached Wednesday is doomed to failure. In part, because I don’t know exactly what the agreement entails.

Other than the Capitol Fax newsletter reporting that Illinois House Minority Leader James Durkin, R-Westchester, said it would include a change to the cost of living adjustment, a defined contribution plan and altering the retirement age.

WHICH IS ABOUT as vague a description as one can give. Although Crain's Chicago Business reported late Wednesday that the COLA would drop and state employees would have to work up to five years more before qualifying for retirement in order to cut $160 billion in costs during the next 30 years.

DURKIN: Offering up "details"
From the reports that emanated from the Bilandic Building (the one-time State of Illinois Building now named for the former state Supreme Court justice and Chicago mayor), the leaders say they reached an agreement Wednesday on something they can all support.

They plan to let the rank-and-file of the Legislature know the specifics on Friday, with the legislators actually meeting at the Statehouse for the one-day special session that was previously scheduled.

CULLERTON: Working to get votes
Which means that a bill could then go to Pat Quinn – the guy who originally tried cutting off the Legislature’s paychecks until they got their act together and sent him something he could sign into law.
IT WAS NICE to see that Quinn on Wednesday was willing to put aside their past snubs of him and say he wants to work with the legislators to get something approved – even though it would seem he doesn’t know exactly what they’ve concocted in the name of “reform.”

RADOGNO: Also in on deal
“I look forward to working with the leaders and members of the General Assembly over the coming days to get this job done for the people of Illinois,” Quinn said, in a prepared statement.

Such a statement was the best Quinn could do to be included in the process, since it appears that at the time the legislative leaders were meeting in Chicago to hash out details, Quinn himself was in Washington, Ill.

Along with the Chicago Blackhawks – who ventured to the central Illinois community that was devastated by tornado earlier this month. Quinn, the Blackhawks and Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., to host a Thanksgiving holiday luncheon.

I SUSPECT THIS will be the last time that Schock (who has hinted about his own gubernatorial aspirations someday) will want to be seen in public with Quinn.

In fact, I suspect that the legislative leaders handled this the way they did because they weren’t about to share any more of the credit with the governor than they had to.

There’s also the fact that Bruce Rauner, the millionaire Republican gubernatorial challenger was quick to jump all over the plan, saying he opposes it even though he doesn’t really know what it consists of either. He’s just being contrarian, since his campaign seems meant to appeal to people who are ideologically inclined to despise organized labor.

It seems he wants to believe it doesn’t go far enough, even though the unions that actually represent state government workers are now complaining that they weren’t included in the talks. They believe it will be too harsh!

QUINN: Excluded from the "fun?"
VERY FEW OF us have a clue what to expect come Tuesday, and whether it will someday be found acceptable by whichever court winds up getting the inevitable lawsuit challenging “reform.” This is an issue that isn't going to go away, no matter how much our political people want to pretend that it's now resolved.

The very thought of all this makes me sleepy – even more so than the tryptophan I will consume Thursday in my holiday meal.


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