SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) on Friday applauded Gov. Pat Quinn for suspending lawmakers’ pay until pension reform is accomplished.
“I hope that the governor’s action will get results,” Rezin said in a statement. “I share his frustration and I am fine with the idea that we shouldn’t be paid until we’ve done the job and this problem is resolved.”
After they failed to pass pension reform during their spring session, Quinn called legislators back to Springfield for a special session and gave them a July 9 deadline to come up with a solution.
When they did not, Quinn suspended their pay, as well as his own.
“Pension reform is the most critical job for all of us in public office,” Quinn said in a statement. “I cannot in good conscience approve legislation that provides legislators who are not doing their job for the taxpayers.”
Members of the General Assembly make $67,836 per year with stipends for leadership positions, according to a press release from Quinn’s office.
Rezin said she hopes the move will spur lawmakers into action, but called on Quinn to get more involved in negotiations.
“Governor Quinn has done what he has done and while I support his action, he needs to do more,” Rezin said. “Pension reform hasn’t happened because the Governor and his two legislative leaders have been unable to agree on an approach.”
Two opposing bills came out of the General Assembly during the spring session.
The House passed one first — a plan backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) that sought to lower benefits and raise employee contributions. It received significant criticism from union groups, who vowed to challenge its constitutionality.
Soon after, the Senate passed its own bill, which was backed by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and negotiated with some unions.
The Senate plan would give employees a choice of benefit plans and seemed to allay the concerns of some union groups, though others still believed it to be unconstitutional.
An agreement could not be worked out by the end of the regular session in May and a 10-member conference committee failed to produce a plan by Quinn’s July 9 deadline.
Quinn’s move drew criticism from his challengers in the upcoming governor’s race.
Republican Bruce Rauner called the move a “stunt” and said union bosses were standing in the way of real reform.
“This would be a good move by Pat Quinn if it wasn’t just another political stunt,” Rauner said in a statement. “The truth is, Quinn, Madigan, and all the political leaders in Springfield have been failing our state for a long time.”
“The pension crisis won’t be solved by political stunts,” he continued. “It will be solved by bold leadership that’s willing to take on the powerful interests in Springfield.
Democrat Bill Daley echoed his Republican counterpart, calling Quinn’s move a “media sideshow.”
“It is obvious to everyone by now that this governor is long on press conferences and short on results,” Daley said in a statement. “This media sideshow doesn’t get things done, in fact it stands in the way.”
Illinois has tried to solve its deeply troubled pension system for years, but with the current system underfunded by $100 billion and a credit rating that’s last in the nation, lawmakers have been under increased pressure to act.
One fifth of the state’s revenue is expected to go to pensions in the next fiscal year.
“This is an emergency,” Quinn said. “The taxpayers cannot afford an endless cycle of delays, excuses and more delays.”
Rezin blamed one-party control and financial mismanagement for the crisis.
“They have consistently decided to take the money that was supposed to be for the pension systems and spent it elsewhere,” Rezin said. “Perhaps if somehow nothing else has provided a wake up call, the Governor’s action will.”