As predicted, last Friday's special session, billed by Gov. Quinn as a "day of reckoning," was a complete failure.
Rep. Biss said it best, "We all look like idiots." (He meant his fellow legislators, not us taxpayers.)
The problem is that taxpayers are on the hook for lawmakers' inability to act to the tune of $41,000 per household. And this number is rapidly increasing with Illinois losing $18 million per day as a result of the pension shortfall.
One of the most powerful images from Friday's failed special session was Speaker Madigan standing defiant with his arms crossed while lawmakers on the House floor called Gov. Quinn out for his inability to lead.
Rep. Reboletti said, "I want to invite Gov. Quinn to explain how this will help solve the pension problem in Illinois."
We can save him some time — it won't.
What's more, Gov. Quinn appears complacent in his role as Speaker Madigan's fall guy, taking the blame from taxpayers and the media. Meanwhile, Madigan fades into the background as usual. Yet the Speaker is the true power denying the people of Illinois a path back to prosperity.
After all, it's not difficult to see who's really in control, simply follow the money.
SEIU contributed a total of $97,000 to Madigan's Democratic Majority, which was reported on the day of the special session. Two weeks earlier, the Democratic Party of Illinois, also chaired by Madigan, reported an SEIU contribution of $50,000.
SEIU claims that they made their donations weeks in advance and that Speaker Madigan only chose to report it on August 17th, the day of the special session. Either way, what that shows is that neither the unions nor the Speaker think they can ever be held accountable for the policy failures of this General Assembly. It is hubris beyond the pale.
Madigan escapes with the cash and does not lead on pension reform, leaving Quinn to face the union boos.
So where is all of this headed? Again, simply follow the money.
If nothing is done, or if fake reform is passed, it will open the door for groups like the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and government unions to push through a progressive income tax. And that is exactly what Madigan and Quinn want — to delay, delay, delay and thus make the problem so large that the only solution is another massive tax hike. We must work to stop it.
In the end, this is a math problem and no tax hike, no matter how big, can solve the problem. It's also not about targeting union workers. It's about the simple fact that current pension plans are unsustainable and it is union workers who are being misled by their own union bosses on the math.
Gov. Quinn, Speaker Madigan, or either Republican leader, can seize the agenda by proposing real reforms that:
- move to defined contribution plans;
- freeze cost-of-living increases for all retirees;
- increase retirement age to 67;
- cap pensionable salary; and
- institute local pension accountability.
To date, only Senator Kyle McCarter has a specific proposal that comes close to this.
Illinois taxpayers see through Quinn's act. It's time we demand Illinois lawmakers stand up to party bosses, including Speaker Madigan, and pass real reform.