Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

June 6, 2013

Quinn calls pension session after credit downgrade

SPRINGFIELD — — Whammed by Illinois' second credit-rating downgrade this week because of the pension debacle, Gov. Pat Quinn moved swiftly Thursday to call lawmakers into a special session "to finish their job" after adjourning the spring session last week without a resolution.

The Democrat's announcement came just minutes after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the state's credit worthiness to A3 from A2 — seven levels from the best grade and four stages above "junk" status.

It was the second time in less than a week that a major assessor of Illinois' $27 billion in outstanding bond indebtedness knocked the state's rating down a level because of inaction on closing a $97 billion shortfall in five public-employee pension programs. Such downgrades cost the state millions of dollars in interest on bonds.

"Time and time again over the past two years, I have proposed, asked and pushed members of the General Assembly to send me a comprehensive pension reform bill," Quinn said in a prepared statement. "Time and time again, failure to act by deadlines has resulted in the bond rating agencies lowering our credit rating, which hurts our economy, wastes taxpayer money and shortchanges the education of our children."

Bringing the Legislature together often opens the door to other action. The May 31 adjournment left several issues unresolved — gambling expansion, legalized gay marriage — and resulted in an unsteady House-Senate agreement answering a court's order to enact provisions for carrying concealed weapons.

House administrators already had discussed June 19 for a return to override an expected Quinn veto of the concealed-carry measure, according to Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor hadn't decided what to do with that bill.

But passing legislation between June 1 and December 31 requires a three-fifths vote in both chambers, so it's hard to see how a pension deal rejected in May could pass now, let alone pacts on gay marriage or a contentious gambling package.

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