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TRANSCRIPT...Cullerton on how to fix the pension mess: 'I don't know, I've tried everything'

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SPRINGFIELD-No major pension reform passed out of Springfield. But several Senate Democrats smiled as they left the Capitol, looking down at the William Crook Jr. paintings they held in their hands that depicted themselves collectively sitting in the Senate chamber.

The paintings were a gift from Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) to his 40-member caucus. The following is a transcript of Cullerton's answers to some of the questions he took after adjournment.

"...We do have the largest number of Democratic senators in the history of the state of Illinois. We worked real hard to get this group together, and it's a very closely-knit group. And I think we've had a great session with the cooperation of Republicans on a number of issues. And we've had a successful session. Obviously, the biggest disappointment was not passing a pension reform bill out of both chambers. Obviously, each chamber passed a bill. And I think I voted for every one of the pension bills that we voted on in the Senate trying to pass something on."

"I credit the governor for making it a top priority. I'm sure he's very frustrated we weren't able to pass it, but it's very, very difficult. It's probably the most difficult bill that you can possibly pass."

Q: Is any session short of pension reform an unsuccessful session?
A: "I wouldn't say it - that's one issue, a major issue we were unsuccessful in. But we did pass a number of other bills."

Q: How do you resolve the pension issue?
A: "I don't know. I've tried everything. I introduced Senate Bill 1 that combined both different bills which eventually passed each chamber."

Q: Do you place the blame on House Speaker Michael Madigan?
A: "Of course not. Of course not."

"The real disappointment is we don't even have a test case to go to the court because the business community was fighting that as well. It had to be their test case. So this is why it's so difficult. It's not because we didn't try, and there's no blame to go around. People have different positions, and it's difficult to get 30 votes on them."

Q: What happens with Gov. Pat Quinn calling a meeting with the four legislative leaders? Where does Quinn fit in this?
A: "Well, you can't criticize the governor for not passing a bill onto the governor's desk. So he did try to pass just about any pension bill, quite frankly. So I'd be happy to talk to him."

Q: Quinn criticized the Legislature for playing a "$17 million-a-day pension game." Is this all a game?
A: "It's not a game. It's something that's very difficult to pass, and we weren't able to do it. But as I said, we passed a number of other major pieces of legislation, and so for that reason I would say that it was a successful session."

Q: What about Attorney General Lisa Madigan's potential run for governor playing into this?
A: "I couldn't figure out how any of that speculation played any role at all in any of these decisions down here. People could use that argument for everybody's actions. It never came up."

Q: Why cant you and Madigan figure this out?
A: "It wasn't about the speaker and I having a disagreement...I cant order people to vote for bills that they clearly don't want to vote for..."

"The first bill that I introduced was the combination. That would have provided a way for both sides to vote for a bill and that had some Republican votes until Ty Fahner and the Commercial Club people and the Chamber of Commerce said, 'no, it's got to be our bill.' That was the most frustrating part of this whole session. So if you want to point some blame, that might be a good place to start."

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