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Reeder: Pat Quinn: Our do-nothing governor

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Sometimes it seems Gov. Pat Quinn vacillates more than a pendulum on a grandfather clock.

He’ll call for reform legislation, get it and then do nothing.

Is he the Duke of Dawdle? The Prince of Procrastination? The Lord of Lollygag?

It sure seems like it.

For instance, he’s done nothing to enforce a law that passed in 2012 allowing the governor to use his rulemaking power to require retired judges, as well as state and university retirees, to pay something toward their health insurance.

Right now a judge with only four years on the bench, or a state or university worker with 20 years of service doesn’t have to pony up a dime for their insurance premiums.

That’s right – nothing.

It’s a good deal for them, but it’s a lousy arrangement for taxpayers.

Quinn could have used his power as governor to reshape retiree health insurance contributions on his own.

Instead he made it part of the 2012 collective bargaining discussions with American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

That move made absolutely no sense.

At that point, the negotiations with AFSCME had dragged on for months. Why throw another issue in hopper to be negotiated?

Also, by making retiree health insurance part of negotiations, the union could delay its implementation through prolonging discussions.

For each day retiree health insurance reform is delayed, the state needlessly spends another $1.2 million.

Quinn and the union went to the bargaining table in January 2012 and the “negotiations” have been going on since then.

Most governors would have declared an impasse long ago and walked away from the bargaining table.

Quinn has done nothing for 13 months.

And what did he get for his trouble? The union is now preparing to strike.

And by allowing retiree health insurance reforms to be tied up in union negotiations, Quinn has cost Illinois taxpayers almost $500 million.

Yes, you read that right. That’s half a billion dollars – money the state doesn’t have to spare.

State government is $9 billion behind in paying its bills, the pension systems are underfunded to the tune of almost $100 billion and Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state in the nation.

The state is spending faster than it’s taking in tax revenue.

Two years ago, a desperate Legislature jacked up every working Illinoisan’s income taxes by 67 percent.

Candidate Quinn had pledged not to sign a measure that would raise taxes that much. But the newly elected governor changed his mind, lobbied for it and signed it into law.

The Duke of Dawdle struck again.

The state is taking in more money per capita than at any time in its 195-year history.

And yet we are spiraling toward bankruptcy.

At a time resolute leadership is required, Illinois has Pat Quinn.

• Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at: sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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