Newly sworn-in Illinois legislators face dire pension crisis

January 9, 2013 4:29:40 PM PST
The newest members of Illinois' newest general assembly took the oath of office Wednesday afternoon in the shadow of the state's looming pension crisis.

As Governor Pat Quinn helped swear in the new Illinois senate Wednesday afternoon, he looked forward to the arrival of new troops in the fight for pension reform.

"A lot of the members ran on platforms of pension reform and I think that will help us get that job done," Quinn said.

During the past week's "lame duck" session, neither the Senate nor the House took votes on plans to resolve Illinois' $96 billion pension shortfall.

"We have to resolve this. It's going to cost the future taxpayers of Illinois more and more money," State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said.

Bond rating agencies have threatened to downgrade the state's credit again, making borrowing money more expensive.

"If our borrowing costs get more expensive, it's going to make things much worse," Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said. "If our bonds become un-saleable on the market, that's going to make things intolerable."

House Speaker Mike Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno were reelected to their leadership positions.

This means Quinn will have to negotiate with the same quartet with whom he has not been able to reach agreement on many issues including pension reform issue.

"These kinds of problems only get solved with enlightened leadership by one or more people," Better Government Association President and CEO Andy Shaw said. "We don't have any enlightened leadership in the state."

"Without a powerful governor, its hard to put people's heads together and bring about compromise," Senator Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) said. "Governor Quinn's going to have to step up or get out of the way."

The senate's first legislation for 98th session is to restart the pension reform process.

"It's an all-encompassing plan that includes both the House and Senate concepts for pension reform," Cullerton (D-Chicago) said.