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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Illinois pension debacle: now a committee!

To no one’s surprise, the special session of the legislature to deal with the fiscal situation did not deal with the fiscal situation.  But to save face, they did two things:

1. While everybody knows that Madigan runs the House and Cullerton runs the Senate (both Democrats), they appointed a 10 member commission to come up with a solution: 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans from each chamber.  Nothing produces bad solutions like a committee, and since in the end Madigan and Cullerton have to be satisfied, it’s easy to see the committee as just more theatre.

2. But wait, there’s more. Now Madigan and Cullerton have a campaign out to blame Governor Quinn for his lack of leadership. Sure, Quinn (the accidental governor who got the post when Blago was sent to prison) has shown little leadership and lots of vacillation.  But it’s not as though Madigan and Cullerton have paid attention to Quinn on much of any issue, so why should this be different?  And Madigan and Cullerton have leadership and vacillation of their own. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

So the theatre continues. Nobody likes to make hard choices, but that’s the job.

A sample of grandstanding statements:

During the past 14 months, Quinn has made a dozen or so major pivots on the pension reform issue. He's also twice called lawmakers into special sessions. So far the state's chief executive has come up empty while Illinois' public pension debt is set to eclipse $100 billion by the end of the month.

"I don't think there's any question there's been sort of a void of leadership from the governor that has not helped the process," said Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine.

"Frankly, the lack of regard for him by the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly hasn't helped," he added. "This process has been delayed by the fact that we haven't had a strong governor who is respected by the General Assembly."

Or, as Rep. Lou Lang, an assistant House Democratic leader from Skokie, said: "It would be appropriate for the governor to do more leading and less speechmaking on the issue of pensions."

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said she was surprised that anyone would criticize the governor's leadership role on the pension issue "with a straight face."

"That is a ludicrous excuse from individuals who, instead of deflecting blame, should be focused on their jobs and sending the governor a bill," Anderson said. "I know it's a tough political vote to take for many, but it's past time that they act for the greater good of Illinois and stop making excuses."

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