CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday he's looking forward to fixing the state's pension mess by Jan. 9 with bipartisan cooperation and before a new Legislature is sworn in.
The governor spoke to reporters in Chicago after launching a new statewide public-private partnership to improve services for veterans. He said an overhaul of the state's employee retirement system is needed so there can be adequate resources for schools, public safety and veterans' programs.
"Getting into this challenge took 70 years. In the next 70 days, we've got to work together in bipartisan cooperation, in a practical way, to solve a big problem that's afflicting our state budget," Quinn said.
Lawmakers have failed to come up with a plan to deal with the roughly $85 billion pension funding gap, which is the worst of any state in the country. Quinn said Tuesday's election results show that voters across the country want to see Democrats and Republicans work together. As he has in the past, he referred to pension reform as a "calling" and a "mission."
"The timing may be that it is in the new year," Quinn said. "So it's going to be a busy first week or so of January, but so be it. Let's get the job done for the people," Quinn said.
Earlier this week, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, also said he hopes to pass pension reform in January during the so-called lame duck session. Cullerton told Lee Enterprises newspapers in Illinois he will need Republican support, no matter when pension reform comes before the Legislature.
Democrats won larger majorities in Tuesday's election, giving them veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate after the new Legislature is sworn in. That could reduce the governor's role in negotiations, but Quinn said he's not concerned about that.