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Quinn signs bill adding oversight to state pensions

Governor PQuinn signed new law increase transparency Pensisystem Monday June 18 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

Governor Pat Quinn signed a new law to increase transparency of Pension system, Monday, June 18, 2012. | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 20, 2012 6:15AM

Gov. Quinn signed a pension bill into law Monday but not the kind of big pension-reform bill he says the state needs to enact — and on which he says negotiations continue.

“I’m impatient that our members can’t come to a meeting of the minds but we’re going to keep pushing until we do get there,” Quinn said Monday as he signed a bill authorizing the state auditor general to hire an actuary to double-check the rates of return the state’s pension funds project.

The hold-up is Downstate and suburban legislators still accepting what Quinn calls the “canard” that gradually transferring responsibility for teacher pensions from the state to Downstate and suburban school districts will force them to raise property taxes.

If it is phased in over 12-15 years, there will be “an imperceptible impact on property taxes; there is no impact on property taxes,” Quinn said.

Quinn has been in “almost daily” conversations with the four legislative leaders and their staffs for the past 10 days and he said, “we’re making, I think, headway.”

Speaker of the House Mike Madigan has argued that it is unfair that state taxpayers cover the pensions of Downstate and suburban teachers while Chicago taxpayers, through the Chicago Public Schools, cover the costs of Chicago teachers’ pensions. That means Chicago residents pay twice.

“All four leaders believe in the fundamental principal of accountability and responsibility — it’s implementing the phase-in that seems to be the key point,” Quinn said. “It’s beyond me how you can let this one issue hold up a fundamental overhaul of our public pension system that has been in the waiting for three decades.”

Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said all the leaders agree on shifting the costs from the state to the schools and the question is just how long a phase-in.

“The question is how long and how do you make sure that other costs are not shoved off on them that should not be,” Currie said.

Quinn added, “We actually had the university presidents and the community college presidents agree to a phase-in plan [to have the schools take over responsibility for contributions now made by the state] and it’s time for the school districts to do the same.”

Will Quinn meet the June 30 deadline he set earlier?

“Well, we’re trying hard for that,” he said.

Quinn also said he thinks the $50 million cut from the Department of Children and Family Services is too deep and he expects to present an alternate budget plan.

“I’m not happy with the work of the General Assembly in this area ... it’s just not acceptable,” he said.

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