AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
SPRINGFIELD-Gov. Pat Quinn will launch a long-promised "grassroots" pension-reform campaign Sunday, urging voters to turn to social media to pressure lawmakers into finally solving the state's $86 billion pension crisis.
The governor is expected to lay out details of his program during a Sunday press conference.
"This web-based initiative is designed to educate citizens about the 'squeeze' caused by skyrocketing pension costs, and then activate them to get involved using tech tools like Facebook, Twitter and email," Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told the Chicago Sun-Times late Saturday.
The governor, who promised last August to lead a grassroots effort after lawmakers failed to pass pension reform during a special session he convened then, expects also to meet with the CEO of Twitter in "the days ahead," she said.
Aides to the governor compare this digital push on pension reform to Quinn's move in the 1970s in which he gathered more than 635,000 signatures to ban advance payments to lawmakers and a follow-up petition drive that he led that cut the size of the Illinois House by two-thirds.
Quinn has tried to pressure legislators to reel in automatic 3-percent cost-of-living increases that are one of main drivers behind Illinois' ballooning pension tab. The governor has proposed giving retirees the choice of continuing to receive the COLA or state-subsidized health insurance but not both perks.
Democrats in the General Assembly also want to pass $20 billion in education-related pension costs the state now covers to the downstate and suburban school systems that set educators' salaries upon which pensions are based.
But Republicans have fought that idea, likening it to a de facto property tax increase on downstate and suburban taxpayers.
Legislators are scheduled to return to Springfield in late November to start a six-day veto session that will end in early December. But most believe any action on pension reform won't start until a week-long lame-duck session in January, when fewer votes would be needed to pass legislation.