Officials react to State of State address

Sean McGowan

WOODFORD — District 106 representative Josh Harms, R-Watseka, is calling for reform.

For starters, he does not like the way Gov. Pat Quinn spoke about the state’s pension debt during the State of the State address.

He said that should have been Quinn’s main focus.

“Illinois has over 210,000 unpaid bills totaling over $9 billion dollars,” Harms said. “We have the worst budget deficit in the nation.

“Since 2008, Illinois has lost the third most jobs in the country, and our unemployment rate is well above the national average at 8.9 percent. The last thing Governor Quinn should be discussing is gun control and gay marriage.”

A broken record

Senator Darin Lahood, R-Dunlap, of the 37th district, said Quinn’s comments on pension reform Feb. 6 seemed like a repeat from previous discussion of the topic.

“A year ago we heard the exact same thing about pension reform,” he said.

Quinn’s adress covered assault weapons bans, conflicts of interest between voting and lawmakers and a minimum wage increase of $1.50 to increase the minimum to $10.

Quinn’s speech on pension reform included how other government spending is hurt by the state’s debt. Lahood agreed with that assessment.

“It’s eating away at all the other basic state services,” he said.

In need of a solution

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is pushing a plan that would cut costs for the two retirement systems covering state workers and legislators. The measure narrowly passed the Senate earlier this year, but has failed to gain momentum in the House.

Under the proposal, lawmakers and other state employees would be required to accept cost-of-living increases below the current 3 percent compounded level if they want to keep access to their state health insurance and have salary increases totaled into their final pension earnings.

The governor named Senate president John Cullerton’s bill as providing a fallback plan for pension reform.

“Do we want, in the years to come, a prosperous Illinois where working people continue to have good jobs, where business thrive, and where all our children have a world-class education?” Quinn asked. “Or do we want to stop the progress and watch our economic recovery stall?”