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posted: 6/3/2012 5:00 AM

Editorial: Unlike Wisconsin, let's choose to work together

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  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses supporters last month in Waukesha as Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch listens. Both face recall elections Tuesday on separate ballots.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses supporters last month in Waukesha as Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch listens. Both face recall elections Tuesday on separate ballots.
    Associated Press

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

There are certain ironies in this week's recall election in Wisconsin for those of us viewing from a short distance away here in Illinois.

For example, our governor, lifelong Democrat Pat Quinn, could see his pension reform hand strengthened if Wisconsin's governor, staunchly conservative Republican Scott Walker, turns back the effort to oust him from office.

And for an even more poignant example, those of us who lobby for reasonableness in Illinois may find we lose ground if extremism is rejected in Wisconsin.

Much has been said about the ripple effect Wisconsin's recall vote will have on elections around the country this November, but the ripples could extend into Illinois in a much more immediate and substantive way.

Here, of course, the debate over public pension reform continues, now that the Illinois General Assembly failed to resolve the issue in this past session.

The debate in Wisconsin is really not the same thing. There, we believe, it's fundamentally a debate over extremism and polarization, but the portrayals paint it more simplistically as an argument for or against unions.

On Wednesday morning, there's a likelihood that the result will be interpreted as either a win or a loss for labor in the public sector, and the momentum of that interpretation is apt to sweep south to the pension reform debate here.

Interpreted that way, a Walker win could provide Quinn with bargaining power in dealing with the public employee unions and their legislative allies: Work with us on pension reform or suffer dire consequences.

Conversely, if Walker loses, the public employee unions and their allies could be emboldened, less apt to work for compromise.

Make no mistake about this. We believe Walker's approach toward labor in Wisconsin has been misguided, extreme and divisive.

But it would be a mistake for anyone who agrees with us on that to lose sight of the fact that the problems he's tried to address are real -- and exist in Illinois, too.

Government spending is too high. The cost of public pensions is unsustainable.

We hope everyone here remembers that Wednesday morning, no matter what happens in Wisconsin.

We hope also that everyone here remembers one of the key differences between the approaches in Wisconsin and Illinois. In Wisconsin, the approach has been one of fiat; in Illinois, Quinn has tried to be inclusive.

We're disappointed that the legislature came up short this session on public pension reform.

But the debate on that will continue. The financial numbers assure that it must.

As it does, let's take the right message from the recall election in Wisconsin: No matter the vote, the outcome there will be an ugly division.

In Illinois, let's resolve to avoid those divisions. Let's resolve to work together to reach a solution. Let's be reasonable with each other.

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