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Reeder: Pat Quinn: Our do-nothing governor

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder

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Updated: March 18, 2013 6:45AM



Sometimes it seems as if 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 was passed in 2012, allowing the governor to use his rule-making power to require retired judges as well as state and university retirees to pay something toward their health insurance.

Now, a judge with just 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 premium. That’s right, nothing. Nada. Zilch.

It’s a really good deal for retirees, but it’s a really bad arrangement for taxpayers.

Quinn could have used his power as governor to reshape retiree health insurance contributions. Instead, he made it part of the 2012 collective bargaining discussions with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, a major union for state employees.

That move made absolutely no sense. At that point, the negotiations with AFSCME Council 31 had dragged on for months. Why throw another issue into the hopper to further complicate negotiations?

Also, by agreeing to include retiree health insurance as part of the bargaining talks, the union could delay its implementation through prolonging discussions. And it has done just that.

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 without much progress. Quinn has retreated from his initial demand for wage cuts, but AFSCME has balked at a pay freeze.

Most governors would have declared an impasse long ago and walked away from the bargaining table. Not Quinn. He has done nothing for 13 months.

And what did he get for his trouble? AFSCME is now preparing to strike, directing members in a recent memo that they should be putting money aside and delaying major purchases to better weather a strike.

By allowing retiree health insurance reforms to be tied up in union negotiations, Quinn has cost Illinois taxpayers nearly $500 million.Yes, you read that right. That’s half a billion dollars — money this deadbeat state certainly doesn’t have to spare.

State government is roughly $9 billion behind in paying its bills, its five employee pension funds have a collective long-term liability of more than $200 billion under new accounting standards and Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state in the nation.

Despite that horrible financial picture, the state continues, amazingly, to spend faster than it’s taking in tax revenue.

Two years ago, a desperate Legislature jacked up every working Illinoisan’s income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, a hefty cut from your paycheck.

Candidate Quinn had pledged not to sign a measure that would raise the income tax by that much. But after being elected, he changed his mind, lobbied for it, got it passed by legislators and signed it into law.

The Duke of Dawdle had 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 when bold and 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, a nonprofit research group that supports the free market and limited government.



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