Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pension borrowing appears stalled

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn said again today that he expects senators to return to the Capitol and pass a borrowing plan before July.

“We have until the end of the month for the Senate to gather their resources and their energy. But that’s what they’re paid for. The citizens of Illinois expect members of the Illinois Senate to vote on bills that affect the common good. So I am going to keep saying what needs to be said, that it’s important for the Senate to do what’s fiscally responsible and help the people of Illinois to save money,” Quinn told reporters after a Chicago news conference.

Quinn said yesterday that he thinks there is enough support in the Senate for a plan to borrow about $4 billion for the state’s required fiscal year 2011 pension payment.

Senate President John Cullerton made it clear when the Senate left town at the end of May that he expected Quinn to be the one to bring more votes onto the plan. He said the bill would not pass without bipartisan support and that it would take at least two Republican votes.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said on the same day that the pension borrowing was not absolutely necessary for the budget to work.

Quinn was able to wrangle at least one of the two Republicans who supported the bill in the House. Elmhurst Rep. Robert Biggins first voted no on the measure but changed his mind after speaking with the governor’s office while the rest of his party was in a caucus meeting. He has since faced backlash and a demotion, as has the other Republican to vote “yes,” Danville Rep. Bill Black. Both are leaving the legislature after this session.

Lynwood Democratic Rep. David Miller, who is also the Democratic candidate for comptroller, changed his mind about borrowing after speaking with Quinn on the House floor soon after casting his original “no” vote.

But two public appeals in two days may be a sign that the governor is having no such luck in private talks with Senate members.

When asked whether he would resort to calling a special session to get the chamber back for a vote Quinn said, “I would hope that wouldn’t have to happen. But we’ll do whatever necessary to make sure the process is working for the people … who deserve an Illinois Senate that listens to them.”

Cullerton spokesperson Rikeesha Phelon said there is no immediate plan for bringing legislators back to Springfield. “The Senate will be back in session when there is evidence of a positive roll call for the borrowing plan,” Phelon said in a written statement.

It is possible that when the budget arrives on Quinn’s desk—he says that will likely happen in the last days of the month—it will not contain a specific plan on how to make the pension payment.

Quinn says he will have to “act promptly” to make cuts when he gets the budget because the new fiscal year begins July 1.

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