Gov. Pat Quinn, pictured here from earlier this month, talked pensions in Springfield Thursday, calling for a Senate vote on House Speaker Michael Madigan's pension-reform package. (Al Podgorski-Chicago Sun-Times)
SPRINGFIELD- Gov. Pat Quinn withheld his endorsement Thursday of union-backed, pension-reform legislation favored by Senate President John Cullerton, repeatedly insisting that a "comprehensive" alternative authored by House Speaker Michael Madigan deserved a Senate vote.
Quinn's signal of support for Madigan's (D-Chicago) Senate Bill 1, which narrowly passed the House last week, came as Cullerton (D-Chicago) prepared to move his own, more worker-friendly version Thursday out of his legislative chamber.
"We have work to do," Quinn told reporters after a ceremony honoring the state's firefighters in Springfield. "I was very impressed by the fact that the principles I annunciated more than a year ago for comprehensive pension reform were contained in [Madigan's bill], and that passed the House last week. And I want to make sure [the bill] gets a vote in the Senate by the end of the month."
Cullerton's plan, which passed the Senate Thursday, was crafted with the help of the state's largest public employee unions and is shaped around standing up to an inevitable lawsuit against the state by giving employees a choice from three different benefit packages.
While the plan is projected to save the state far less money than Madigan's plan, Quinn wouldn't say whether he prefers a bill that is more constitutional or one that saves the state more cash.
"I think having robust debate in both houses on this subject is a very good way to go for democracy, but ultimately, there must be a vote on a comprehensive measure that meets my outline of what consists of public pension reform that will move our economy forward," Quinn said.
Quinn opposed a bill passed in the Senate late in last year's legislative session because it addressed only two of the state's five pension systems. This time, Quinn praised Cullerton's efforts but stopped short of saying whether he would sign the bill if it passes the General Assembly.
"Well, I'm not going to speculate on anything unless it gets to my desk," he said. "I think it's important to have both houses of the Legislature have a robust debate but have votes too. And I think those bills that have passed one house certainly deserve a vote in the other.
"I think it's important for them - members of the Senate - to take a look at everything, but ultimately it's important for Senate Bill 1 to get a vote."