Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday that he'll wait until next month to debut his so-called grass-roots campaign raising awareness about Illinois' pension problem, a move that comes days after lawmakers failed to come up with a plan to overhaul the massively underfunded system.
There has been little movement on how to address the roughly $85 billion funding gap, which Quinn says is growing by about $12.6 million a day and has made his top priority in recent months. Lawmakers couldn't agree on pension-related legislation earlier in the year during their spring session, negotiations between top legislative leaders over the summer went nowhere and a special session on the topic Friday ended without any action.
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Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has vowed to push forward and "activate the public," but he said Tuesday that he won't release a plan until the middle of September. He said he wants to wait until several key events have passed: the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa, Fla., the Democratic National Convention the week after in Charlotte, N.C., and the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
He declined to say what his plan will specifically include, aside from hinting that it'll involve technology and likely social networking.
"I'll wait to announce our plan ... but it will be a good plan. It will involve everyday people. It will use the powerful electronic democracy to wake up legislators that we're not going to give up on our children. That's what pension reform is all about," Quinn said. "I don't want to be competing with the national conventions when all of America will be watching."
Quinn has said he'll ratchet up public pressure and reach out to civil leaders, taxpayers and business leaders.
"In order to move our state forward, we must summon the energy of the people," he said. "They will get this done."
Credit rating agencies have threatened to lower Illinois' rating unless lawmakers act to reduce the strain pensions puts on Illinois' already weak finances. Quinn said Tuesday that his office has been in regular touch with the agencies.
Quinn has blamed Republican leaders for failed efforts at an overhaul, saying they "sabotaged" every proposal offered last week. However, top Republicans have pointed fingers at Quinn, saying he hasn't offered leadership on the issue with a specific proposal or plan.