Tensions at DNC between top Ill. Dems, labor leaders

September 3, 2012 (CHARLOTTE, N.C.)

Illinois' $85 billion pension debt is the highest in the country and so far there are no signs the issue will be solved anytime soon.

Democrats control the Illinois House, Senate, and the governor's mansion, but stalemates in Springfield are leading to more problems for the state's financial health.

Now there are high hopes that Illinois political leaders may be able to hammer things out.

In faraway Charlotte, the all-powerful Illinois Democratic Party leadership again appealed to Illinois Republicans to help solve their state's worst-in-the-nation pension debt.

"We cannot do it without a bi-partisan effort," said State Senate President John Cullerton.

"I think it's a bi-partisan solution," said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. "That's the only way to really do it right."

Despite decisive majorities in the State House and Senate, and control of the governor's mansion, the ruling democrats have failed and failed again to resolve the state's $85 billion unfunded pension liability.

"They've got the numbers, they could but obviously they haven't come to a consensus among themselves," said Michael Carrigan, Illinois AFL-CIO.

Democratic leaders, who want to shift the cost of teacher pensions to suburban and downstate school districts possibly raising property taxes. blame the minority Republicans.

"I think the people of Illinois know that Illinois Republicans just want to sit on the sidelines and say, 'well, the Democrats have the majority they should solve all the problems,'" said Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

A Republican spokeswoman says of the Democratic inaction: "They fear the power base that put them in office. In the meantime, the rest of us suffer."

"I don't think there's anybody afraid of anything," Quinn said.

The governor and legislative wants both parties to share any political cost of pension reform.

"We cannot do this in a political, partisan way," said Quinn. "We've got to do it in a way that helps the people of Illinois."

So as Illinois Democrats party in Charlotte, they quietly worry about wearing the pension reform "jacket" by themselves.

It's the major reason there won't be movement on the issue until after the elections.

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