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updated: 8/10/2012 2:35 PM

Quinn: Do pension reform for history

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SPRINGFIELD -- As he opened the Illinois State Fair Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn said tackling the state's enormous $83 billion pension debt would make the state's most famous president proud.

"I think that it's imperative that we do something for history," Quinn said. "I think Abraham Lincoln would be very proud of us if we use government of the people to solve the problem for the people."

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Lawmakers will have their next chance in a week as Quinn has called them to Springfield for another shot at cutting back teacher and state employee pension benefits. But it's still unclear if anything will get done.

Quinn Friday backed legislation filed by state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, that would reduce the annual pension benefits increases retirees get.

And the plan would also transfer the cost of teachers' pensions from the state to local schools more gradually than previous plans.

That particular legislation can't be voted on in one day next week, but the concepts can be transferred to other proposals for action.

But Republicans have almost universally rejected the cost-shift proposal, making its approval difficult, if not impossible, in one day.

Quinn spoke to reporters after cutting the ribbon to open the state fair. He said that even though the pension plans he's now backing don't take effect until next year, lawmakers have to ask now because credit rating agencies could downgrade the state in the meantime.

"They pay attention to what we're doing now," he said.

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