On Thursday, Moody’s Invest-ment Services downgraded Illi-nois’ credit rating, which was already the lowest in the nation, from A2 to A3.
And that should not come as a surprise.
After two bills, endless debate and promises to the contrary, the Illinois General Assembly failed to pass pension reform by the end of the spring legislative session last week.
In response, Gov. Pat Quinn called legislators to a special session beginning Wednesday, June 19, to try once again to solve the state’s pension crisis.
The House passed a bill in March that was backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), which raises employee contributions to their pensions while lowering benefits.
The Senate then passed its own bill, worked out by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), that gave workers a choice of benefit plans.
Cullerton’s proposal allayed the concern of some unions, getting support from a labor coalition called We Are One Illinois, but both bills were sharply criticized by teachers’ groups who vowed to challenge the constitutionality of each.
Madigan’s plan was brought to a vote in the Senate, failing 16-42.
Cullerton’s plan failed to even get a vote in the House.
Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said in a press release that the failure to pass pension reform has left Illinois in a state of uncertainty.
“All parties in the state recognized that pension reform was the number one issue for the state and it was ours to solve,” Rezin said. “Yet here we are, returning to our districts, with the problem left unsolved.”
“At this time it is unclear what will happen with pension reform,” she added.
Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris) called the lack of reform “frustrating” and said she does not know what will come of the special session.
“I think we went down there in January with the thought that we’d accomplish reform,” Roth said. “We didn’t get there.”
Roth added that the House and Senate appear to be “miles apart” on the issue, and said Quinn should have done more to bring the sides together.
“I’m disappointed that the Governor did not take a leadership role on what he thought reform should look like,” Roth said. “The longer we do nothing, the more people it hurts.”
Despite failing to pass a pension plan, the session did include the passage of several high-profile bills, including a fracking regulation measure and the state’s first ever concealed carry law.
Rep. Kate Cloonen (D-Kankakee) said in a press release that she is a strong advocate for the second amendment and was glad to see the current ban on concealed carry lifted.
“For too long, Chicago politicians have worked to suppress the second-amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Cloonen said.
“Illinois is the only state that does not have any form of concealed carry permits and it is time for that to change.”
In a press release Friday, the Illinois State Police emphasized that the law still does not permit concealed carry, and will continue to enforce the current law until it officially changes.
Roth, who was a sponsor on the House fracking bill, said she was excited it passed.
“It’s a good bill,” Roth said. “I’m excited for what this will do for jobs and the economy in Illinois.”
Still, there is a lot left undone.
The House did not vote on a high-profile gambling bill that would bring a casino to Chicago, nor did it vote on a bill that would make Illinois the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage.
For Rezin, the failure to pass pension reform looms the largest — “overshadowing” any successes of the spring session.
“The General Assembly made some progress on a number of important issues this session,” Rezin said.
“However, the failure to accomplish pension reform is likely to overshadow all other accomplishments.”