Peoria Journal Star
Session leaves Quinn’s wishes unfulfilled
Monday, June 04, 2012
Gov. PAT QUINN gave the state Legislature an incomplete on its spring report card.
Yes, he was pleased that lawmakers finally got rid of legislative scholarships and that they managed to close a $2.7 billion hole in the Medicaid program.
And yes, Quinn said, he’s happy the Legislature passed a bill to start charging retired state employees premiums for their state health insurance.
Reforming pensions? Nope.
Throughout the spring, Quinn said the twin pillars of the session were Medicaid and pension reforms. The Legislature did half of them. That’s good for a batting average but is a flunking grade on just about any school exam.
If you recall, Quinn threatened to keep lawmakers in Springfield all summer until they resolved both issues. Didn’t happen.
Keeping lawmakers in session all summer never worked very well for ex-Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH. If anything, it deepened their resentment of him. Maybe Quinn has figured that out. He will meet with the legislative leaders to see if they can reach some kind of agreement. It appears that only then will he bring everyone back.
Whether that makes legislators any more amenable to challenging public employee labor unions with pension reforms remains to be seen.
Making easy cuts
Both pension and Medicaid reforms were expected to be difficult issues to resolve. In the end, changing Medicaid was easy compared with reforming pensions, even though Medicaid reforms included ending the prescription drug assistance program for poor seniors and curtailing or ending a wide variety of other services to the poor.
Guess it underscores the fact that programs to help the poor aren’t enshrined in the state Constitution, removing one barrier to whacking them.
Who’s judging whom?
A couple of weeks ago, Quinn said of pension reforms that as far as he was concerned, “everybody’s in, nobody’s out.” In other words, reforms will affect participants in all five state-funded systems.
Except, judges are not part of the various reform proposals.
The reason was couched in various niceties, but it all came down to a hard reality. Pension reforms are going to be challenged in court. What judge is going to say pension reforms are OK if he or she knows judicial pensions will be affected? Can you say none?
Yet, when pension reforms are discussed, all of the vitriol is directed at state lawmakers. A lot of it comes down to cut THEIR salaries, cut THEIR pensions. As if that is going to solve the problem.
Let’s say you could eliminate lawmaker pensions with the wave of a hand. You can’t, of course, because if the state Constitution protects pensions for teachers and state employees, it also protects pensions for lawmakers.
But let’s say they can be eliminated. The unfunded debt of the pension systems — the thing that is giving the numbers crunchers all of that heartburn — is about $83.1 billion, according to the most recent report from the auditor general’s office. Now, eliminate lawmaker pensions and all the debt those generous pensions are costing the state. You know what the remaining debt is? About $82.8 billion. In other words, you’re right back where you started.
Get over it.
New gold standard
Retired Rep. BILL BLACK, R-Danville, used to be the gold standard for rants on the House floor. He’s now been supplanted by Rep. MIKE BOST, R-Murphysboro.
Bost’s rant last week went viral. It even made some national news programs.
Unfortunately, some of the footage used was selective.
“These damn bills that come out of here all the damn time,” Bost said in a segment used on CBS This Morning. “Come out here at the last second and I’ve got to try to figure out how to vote for my people.”
Sort of makes it appear Bost wasn’t clear on the job description when he ran.