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updated: 11/19/2012 7:37 AM

Quinn launches education campaign for pension reform

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The earliest pensions date back to the time of Augustus Caesar and the Roman Empire. Military pensions in the United States have been common since the American Revolution. And in Illinois, teachers got their first pensions in 1915.

Historical facts like these are the focus of Gov. Pat Quinn's latest push for pension reform. On Sunday, he announced the launch of ThisIsMyIllinois.com, a website designed to increase awareness about pensions and the need for an overhaul.

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Quinn hopes the new website will help get people talking about the issue and compel them to pressure their legislators to act now.

"The way to win here is to activate the public, and I think the only way to activate the public, is you first have to educate the people about the issue," he said Sunday.

ThisIsMyIllinois.com is part of the "Thanks in Advance" campaign, which Quinn said is designed with children at its heart. It's the young people who are counting on today's leaders to "rise to the occasion" and fix the pension crisis, securing their futures, he said.

The campaign is driven by social media, largely through Facebook but also on Twitter, YouTube and email. The governor hopes people discuss the issues with their families as they come together to celebrate the holidays.

The education focus is on the pension squeeze -- the fact that as more money goes toward paying for pensions, less is available for other state programs like education, health care and public safety.

"This is an education campaign to educate the people of Illinois about an admittedly complicated subject," Quinn said. "But you don't have to be an accountant to know what the stakes are."

The website is not designed to inform people about the proposals legislators and outside groups have developed in the ongoing debate. But Quinn said he welcomes a "robust dialogue" and it is expected to come on the This is My Illinois Facebook page, where Max Evans, a sophomore at Benet Academy in Lisle, made the inaugural post Sunday and others have already added comments. The governor's office will respond to and moderate the Facebook discussion in coming months.

Illinois ranks last in the nation when it comes to funding pension liabilities. It has been a problem in the state for 70 years and one Quinn said 12 governors, 13 House speakers and 12 Senate presidents have failed to solve.

"We need to get the ball a-rolling on behalf of pension reform," Quinn said.

Quinn hopes to have a deal passed by Jan. 9, before newly elected representatives take office.

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