After Long Silence, Quinn Aide Meets With Key Pension Lawmaker

Jul 31, 2013

Sen. Kwame Raoul, standing at right, presided over a hearing on pension legislation in this July 3, 2013 file photo.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

A day after Illinois legislative leaders sued Governor Pat Quinn for vetoing lawmakers' salaries, the governor continued lashing out at the General Assembly for not passing a pension overhaul.

Quinn has consistently tried to portray himself as being engaged in the negotiations over pensions. But members of the legislative committee trying to come up with a compromise say that's not true.

It's been a constant refrain from the governor, saying he and his staff stand ready, "day and night," to work with the 10-member conference committee trying to find a way to reduce Illinois' massive unfunded pension liabilities.

"My staff members are there all the time, providing information, negotiating with them," Quinn said Wednesday at a Chicago news conference. "My budget director is meeting with them all the time with our specific suggestions, ideas."

But the last time Quinn's budget director met with the committee was nearly a month ago — before the governor nixed lawmakers salaries. Until Wednesday.

Pension committee chairman Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, says he met with Quinn's budget director Jerry Stermer Wednesday morning — for the first time since July 8th.

"The notion that there's been contact all the time is an exaggeration at best," Raoul said in a telephone interview.

But even after meeting with Stermer, Raoul says he still doesn't know how much money a pension overhaul would have to save to be acceptable to Quinn.

"There hasn't been any indication from the governor's office. But there haven't been really many indications from anybody with regards to that, which makes the task a little bit more challenging," Raoul said.

Even if the committee members do reach a compromise, with the governor's recent flair for dramatic, populist action at the expense of the legislature, it remains to be seen whether rank-and-file lawmakers will risk voting on something he might reject.

Nevertheless, Raoul and other members of the bipartisan conference committee say they're making progress toward a deal that would address Illinois' nearly $100 billion in unfunded future pension obligations.