EXCLUSIVE: Governor Pat Quinn talks about Illinois pension crisis

Pat Quinn

January 10, 2013 6:29:19 PM PST
Governor Pat Quinn granted his first interview since the lame duck legislative session adjourned without reforming the state's pension system exclusively to ABC7 News.

Quinn said he is disappointed that the pension problem still exists.

A few months ago, Quinn said he was "put on this earth" to resolve the Illinois pension crisis and that he wanted the job done during the first week of January.

It appears the governor has some living to do because he could not get the General Assembly to cooperate.

"When they pounded the gavel down and said we're finished for this session of the legislature, you know that was the end for the time being," Quinn said.

As we met this afternoon in the Quinn's Chicago office, he was disappointed but not discouraged.

The General Assembly's "lame duck" session had not, as Quinn had hoped, resolved the state's worst-in-the-nation $96 billion pension debt.

"We came close, but we're not there yet. So you keep on pushing. That's what governors do," he said.

During the session, the Democrat lobbied furiously for a House pension reform measure that would have increased public employee payroll contributions and capped retiree benefits and cost of living increases.

His hopes soared when House Republican Leader Tom Cross signed on to the bill that died for lack of support among Quinn's fellow Democrats, led by Speaker Mike Madigan.

Is Mike Madigan doing enough?

"He has to do more, everybody has to do more. It isn't enough if it isn't a law and that's really what we're focused on," Quinn said.

Quinn's fight will intensify if bond rating agencies carry out their threat to downgrade the state's credit.

It will also be complicated by politics leading up to next year's Democratic primary for governor.

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary and White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley has publicly questioned Illinois' leadership and says he's considering a primary run to replace Quinn.

"There are politicians who stand on the sidelines and point fingers. They make excuses and alibis, I'm not one of them," Quinn said. "I never walk away from a tough battle. I stay in there and fight to the end to get the job done."

Quinn told ABC7 News that he will be a candidate for reelection in the March 2014 Democratic primary.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is another possible Democratic candidate.

On the Republican side, at least a half dozen possible candidates have indicated their interest including State Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.