Gov. Pat Quinn, Madigan, Cullerton to meet Tuesday to hash out pension messContinue reading.
Quinn rattles saber over pension panel’s inertia, threatens ‘consequences’ if no deal by Tuesday
SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn Monday warned state lawmakers of certain “consequences” if they ignore his Tuesday deadline for action on a pension deal despite being a no-show at a legislative pension-reform hearing and having a top emissary repeatedly dodge questions about the specific framework for his own plan.
“It’s time for the General Assembly to put a pension-reform bill on my desk,” the governor told reporters in Chicago. “They have had one excuse after another for the last two years. It’s time for them to do their job. If they don’t do their job by tomorrow, there will be consequences.”
In Springfield, the conference committee Quinn and the Democratic legislative leaders created in June to deal with the pension crisis met for a third time but adjourned Monday with no clear movement toward a reconciliation amid escalating signs of tension between lawmakers and the governor.
During the hearing, members of both parties were stymied by Quinn’s budget chief, Jerry Stermer, who would only offer vague answers when asked about what new plan the governor was prepared to offer up. Stermer also wouldn’t say why the governor rebuffed the committee’s invitation to personally testify at Monday’s meeting.
“Part of the difficulty in our discussion today is you’re answering in a lot of generalities. If the governor were here, it would be difficult for him to just answer in generalities,” state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), the committee’s chairman, told Stermer.
“So I’m just curious, where is the governor? What’s more important for him today? He was invited to be here,” Raoul said.
Stermer responded that in the letter Raoul sent the administration seeking testimony before the committee, he invited either “the governor or his designee” to appear.
“My letter was to him, so I assume he declined,” Raoul pressed.
“He sent his designee, as requested,” Stermer shot back.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson later said the governor was “in Springfield, in his Capitol office, working, and is ready to sign the bill” when lawmakers send it to him. Quinn’s office was two floors below where Monday’s hearing was held.
Raoul later expressed frustration that the governor was a few stair flights away yet couldn’t manage to make an appearance to weigh in on a specific approach.
“If he was in Springfield and couldn’t come up a couple of floors, I don’t know what to say,” Raoul said.
Raoul has said the committee would not meet Quinn’s Tuesday deadline for a consensus on a pension bill because it still had not gotten actuarial cost-savings from a university-backed funding proposal that the group is studying.
Raoul also said the pension systems are doing a work-up on a plan by the administration itself, though Stermer and Anderson insisted the governor is leaving it to the conference committee to devise and to send him a plan.
Anderson and the governor aimed to leave no doubt that the Tuesday deadline is serious, coming on the same day lawmakers return to Springfield for a one- or two-day session to attempt an override of Quinn’s amendatory veto of concealed-carry legislation.
One hammer Quinn has to exact revenge for the legislative inertia on pensions is the final piece of the Fiscal 2014 state budget that he has yet to sign. In it is funding for legislative salaries and the per diems lawmakers get for food and lodging when the General Assembly is in Springfield.
Anderson repeatedly refused to say if Quinn was prepared to strip out that funding and potentially elevate his battle with the Legislature to new and more toxic heights.
“That bill is under careful review,” she said.
The legislation now in the governor’s hands passed in May with a wide enough margin in the Senate to override a possible reduction veto by Quinn. In the House, however, the roll call was one vote shy of a veto-proof majority, making a potential override iffier.