The Republican candidates for governor were at each other’s throats Wednesday night in their third television debate in a week. State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) voted for pension reform last year, and he went back decades, when Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) was chief of staff for Gov. Jim Edgar, to criticize Dillard’s “no” vote.
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“Your first two years as chief of staff, you borrowed, under-funded, $1 billion. You are why we have the problem we have today, $100 billion in unfunded liability,” Brady said. “What do you say to that?” What Dillard said was that by 1994, Edgar was the first governor to recognize a problem, and Dillard was instrumental in passing a law in 1995 that was supposed to produce reform.
Brady had to defend himself for voting for last year’s effort; he said the three other candidates on the stage at WGN-TV are the only people he knows who opposed it. Brady and Bruce Rauner accused Dillard of “selling out” to unions by voting against the pension bill, resulting in Dillard getting endorsements and campaign contributions from various unions whose members are affected, including teachers and state workers.
Dillard said he opposed the bill mainly because it didn’t specify where the savings, estimated at $1.3 billion per year, would go.
Rauner said he wants to allow state workers and teachers to keep the pensions for which they’ve worked so far, but move them into a 401(k)-style plan for any future work.
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford said he believes the pension reform law is unconstitutional. He said if he’s elected, he’ll meet with the interested parties to work out something that includes a voluntary change in exchange for something of value – “consideration and acceptance.”
Wednesday’s debate was the penultimate debate of the primary campaign. The final debate will be March 13 on WTTW-TV in Chicago.