The first big meeting in this new legislative session between unions and lawmakers didn’t produce much in the way of solving the state’s public pension crisis. Among those in attendance at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Burr Ridge: Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego), a handful of state senators and union leaders.
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They talked pension reform but also talked about the need to pay off the state's owed portion of existing pension contributions. One suggestion: extend the temporary income tax increase, set to expire in 2015, and earmark that revenue towards paying the pension obligations. “If we were to extend this they would be paying the same,” said State Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin). “If we were to say that look, this is what this is going to be earmarked for, perhaps paying down our unfunded liability at this point and there is a sunset date even on that, then I think [Illinoisans] would be open to that.”
Cross says there must be a way to pay off the state’s pension obligations without hitting up the taxpayers. “I’m going to remain diligent about trying to find some solutions but I think there’s got to be a willingness to move away from just revenue as a solution,” Cross said.
Unions aren’t talking specifics but do say they are optimistic. “The governor and legislative leaders should seize this opportunity and use the momentum from today’s summit to finally seriously negotiate a fair and constitutional solution that all parties can support,” said Mike Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.