The second bond rating downgrade of the week has Gov. Pat Quinn swinging into action. The downgrade by Moody’s Thursday follows that of Fitch on Monday and is in response to the General Assembly’s inaction on pension restructuring. The governor, in turn, is calling the legislature back into session in two weeks. As the spring session wound to a close last week, the Senate failed a House-passed bill, while the House did not call a vote on the Senate version.
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The House passed a bill which is seen as more comprehensive but fraught with constitutional questions. The Senate’s bill boasted union support but less saving. The five state pension systems are underfunded by approximately $100 billion. In a statement, the governor said: “Time and time again, failure to act by deadlines has resulted in the bond rating agencies lowering our credit rating, which hurts our economy, wastes taxpayer money and shortchanges the education of our children. … I am calling the General Assembly back to Springfield on June 19 to finish their job for the people of Illinois.”
While she’s not sure what there will be for lawmakers to consider, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) says to remember this: “I don't know that people fully appreciate the issues that come along with the downgrade, including the higher cost of borrowing, (the) higher cost of doing business for all local governments, but I think many people who understand that have been sounding the warning bells for some time.”
While the tactic of calling a special session with no bill to consider is something ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich did frequently, House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) does not draw the comparison here. “I would argue that the current governor is trying -- and I've been trying – to get this done,” said Cross, “and I think this falls on the lap of the General Assembly, specifically on the Democrat president (of the Senate) and the Democrat speaker (of the House), and that's a shame.”