Legislative inaction has Illinois a bit woebegone

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 10:39 a.m. CDT

(MCT) It’s been a busy week on pension reform in Illinois. Oh, don’t get excited. A busy week doesn’t mean that anything substantial actually happened. This week was a microcosm of what has happened on the issue so far — lots of talk, no action.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate William Daley took a page out of Gov. Pat Quinn’s playbook and proposed a populist idea that will have no impact. Daley proposed that the governor and legislative leaders conduct marathon meetings until an agreement on the $97 billion in outstanding pension obligations is reached.

Locking the participants in a room until they reach a deal sounds like a good idea. But there isn’t really a need for more meetings. What’s needed are leaders and legislators with the courage to take a vote that will be unpopular with a lot of people.

Even if such meetings were workable, it’s unlikely attendance would be very high. A lot of legislators are on vacation and several are out of the country on a tour of China.

While Quinn and Daley expressed populist ideas that will have little or no impact, Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, issued a letter saying judges should be included in any pension system overhaul.

A number of the recent reform proposals have left the Judges Retirement System out of the mix. The reasoning is that judges, including the state Supreme Court, will eventually hear the case when the reforms undergo an almost certain Constitutional challenge.

“I acknowledge that some take the position that a conflict arises for judges of the Supreme Court who would hear this case in the event of a constitutional challenge,” Brady wrote. “I would respond that our judges are men and women of integrity, and the implication that their decision may be swayed by their personal financial interests does them a disservice.”

In principle, we agree with Brady. But Brady has used the exclusion of the judges in pension reform efforts as an excuse to vote against previous pension efforts. We urge Rep. Brady, and others, to find a solution, even though it may not be perfect. We’d remind Brady that taxpayers would be much better off with pension reform that excluded the judges than with no pension reform at all.

We’ve heard little lately out of a special House-Senate committee that is supposed to be forging a compromise on the issue. At last report the group was waiting on actuarial reports to help with their deliberations. The governor’s July 9 deadline was totally ignored, more evidence of Quinn’s impact.

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This editorial first appeared in The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

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©2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

Visit The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) at www.pantagraph.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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