Quinn talks pension reform, special session

August 14, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"Somebody who retired in 1992 from state employment with a $60,000 pension today under the current rules has $120,000 -- and we just cannot afford this," Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Quinn has called the General Assembly back to Springfield this Friday to reform the system. The goal is to reduce the state's estimated $83 billion-plus pension debt and free up budget space for other uses.

"So we have money not just for pensions but for schools, for safety, for healthcare, all the things that people want," Gov. Quinn said.

Leaders of both parties agree on raising the retirement age and limiting retiree cost of living increases, among other changes. But Republicans, fearing property tax increases, oppose shifting the cost of suburban and downstate teacher pensions from the state to local school districts.

"Successful pension reform is not dependent on cost shift," House Minority Leader Tom Cross said. Cross opposes the governor's plan to phase in the cost shift over 12 years to minimize annual tax increases. Does he think it might take the system's catastrophic collapse to force action?

"Yes. Because I think folks in this state and around the country don't think it can happen to them," Rep. Cross said.

Meanwhile, the governor says he's not worried about the personal political cost of possibly being unable to forge an agreement by Friday.

"I think people admire someone who gets in the middle of the arena, works as hard as they can with every fiber of their being to solve a problem that will help us for the next generation," Gov. Quinn said.

On Tuesday, the Governor repeated his Wall Street warning that without pension reform this week, the bond rating agencies could again downgrade the state's credit rating sooner than later.

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