There’s no need for special legislative session
Herald-News editorial August 3, 2012 11:38PM
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:24AM
It’s back to Springfield this month for Illinois legislators, who will assemble Aug. 17 for a special session to try to resolve the crisis that finds the state at least $83 billion short in long-term financing for its five pension funds.
Gov. Pat Quinn called the session, picking the date because the House will be in town anyway for its vote on whether to kick out Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), whom the feds have indicted for allegedly taking a bribe. We applaud Quinn for strongly urging the Legislature to enact reform measures ASAP, but, sadly, we don’t see any chance of major reform happening this month.
Legislators clearly, and shamefully, don’t want to make major decisions on such a politically explosive issue before the Nov. 6 election, when they’re all on the ballot and running in new districts. Better for them to avoid the matter until they have new terms or are lame ducks.
No less an expert than Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) calls the special session a waste of time and public funds (it will cost about $40,000 a day to convene it). Unfortunately, we have to agree.
As we see it, the best that can occur is that the House approves a bill the Senate passed at the end of the spring session to change pension benefits for lawmakers and state workers. That addresses two of the pension funds, but not the biggest one by far, the Teachers’ Retirement System, the main obstacle to agreement on pension reform.
Quinn, Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) are insisting foolishly that TRS reform include shifting the pension costs for suburban and downstate teachers from the state to local school districts over several years.
Republicans adamantly oppose the idea, believing correctly that it would mean much higher property tax bills for homeowners. It’s a stalemate that won’t be broken until after Nov. 6.
Rather than a special session, House members should vote Aug. 17 on Smith, OK the bill reforming the two funds and head home without an overnight stay — sparing us all the charade and expense of a fruitless special session.