SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn expressed no major concern this week about the possibility that a lame duck Legislature could decide the fate of an overhaul of the state’s pension system.
Quinn, who has been pushing for changes to the underfunded employee retirement systems, acknowledged the issue could be taken up by a General Assembly populated by more than two dozen lame duck lawmakers.
The situation mirrors what happened in 2011, when several lame duck Democrats voted in favor of boosting the state income tax rate by 67 percent.
“I think if you are elected to the Legislature, you are elected to a whole term,” Quinn told the Times Springfield Bureau in an interview. “You don’t start jogging before you get to the finish line. You run hard the whole way.”
The January showdown began looking likely last month when Senate President John Cullerton told the Chicago Tribune there wasn’t enough support to approve any kind of significant pension overhaul before the November election.
Cullerton said a vote on the controversial issue could come once lawmakers know whether they will have to face voters again in future elections.
Quinn has been pressing for quicker action because he’s worried about the state’s bond rating falling farther. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services last month lowered the state’s ratings because of inaction on addressing an $83 billion unfunded liability.
Quinn said he will launch an Internet-based citizen lobbying effort “very soon,” hoping to convince voters to back his proposed changes, which include reducing automatic annual raises for retirees and forcing school districts to pay a larger share of the pension bill.
An exact start date has not been determined, the governor said.
“We don’t want to do it on the day of a presidential debate,” Quinn said. “We thought that might get eclipsed. It’s more of a timing issue now.”