Government

Quinn stops short of endorsing pension deal

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks during a July 10 news conference in Chicago.
Gov. Pat Quinn speaks during a July 10 news conference in Chicago.

CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn expressed hope Friday about an evolving $138 billion savings plan to solve Illinois' public pension problem, but he stopped short of fully endorsing it.

Quinn, who for months has been urging lawmakers to send him any pension reform proposal, told reporters after an event in Chicago that he's seen some of the plan's details and has been working with the 10 lawmakers tasked with reaching a compromise.

"I saw a lot of the ideas they've come up with, I think they're very meritorious," Quinn said. "I really feel the committee needs to finalize its work and get a bill before the House and the Senate so we can get a vote."

On Wednesday, Senate President John Cullerton threw his weight behind the plan. Lawmakers this summer called on Quinn to get more directly involved in the pension reform process and to be more specific about what he wants.

The still-evolving $138.9 billion plan includes reducing 3 percent annual compounded cost-of-living adjustments in retirement benefits to half of the rate of inflation. But it also would reduce employee contributions by one percent – a concession to state employees for other sacrifices.

The panel was formed this summer after lawmakers reached a stalemate on competing House and Senate pension plans.

The state faces a $100 billion unfunded pension liability due to lawmakers shorting or skipping payments.

Lawmakers warn a vote may not happen during the October veto session. But Quinn calls the situation a crisis that needs immediate action.

"I don't think we should postpone an emergency," he said.

Quinn also said Friday that he plans to talk to the lawmakers later this month about making sure the State Police department has the resources it needs to deal with a backlog of gun ownership applications and the estimated 400,000 concealed-carry permit applications it is expected to receive.

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