Top Quinn aide: Still pushing for a pensions deal
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Pat Quinn's budget director said Wednesday that talks over cuts to the state's retirement plans continue "every day," and he thinks a compromise can be found before lawmakers head to Springfield Aug. 17.
"There can be resolution to this next week if people decide to resolve it," Quinn budget director Jerry Stermer in a meeting with the Daily Herald.
But the $83 billion question remains: "How?"
Lawmakers and Quinn continue to search for a solution to the state's $83 billion in pension debt, and the governor's office this week is pushing an analysis that suggests what the state spends on retirement costs could outweigh what it spends on schools by 2016 without changes.
"We are missing out on tremendous opportunities to bring our children along," added Gery Chico, chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, who joined in the same meeting.
Republicans, though, might not buy that argument.
"Their numbers have become very unreliable," said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont.
One of Quinn's solutions to cut costs continues to see unflinching Republican opposition. The idea of making local schools pay the state's share for future pension costs doesn't sit well with GOP -- and some Democratic -- lawmakers.
And a compromise on that point doesn't seem likely soon.
"There haven't been any meetings in a couple months," said House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego.
House Speaker Michael Madigan plans Aug. 17 to call for a vote a Senate plan that would reduce annual pension benefit increases for lawmakers and state workers, but not teachers and university employees.
Stermer said Quinn wants a plan that would affect everyone, but he hasn't ruled out making changes piecemeal.
"A step forward is always a step forward," Stermer said.
Cross said Republicans aren't a fan of that approach, though.
"It does very little," he said.