CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross said Wednesday that he believes there’s an ulterior motive behind the ongoing pension reform standoff between House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.
Lawmakers adjourned their spring session at the end of May without approving a plan for comprehensive reform of the state’s public employee pension systems. A plan backed by Madigan was soundly defeated in the Illinois Senate, while a plan backed by Cullerton never got a vote in the Illinois House.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Cross was brief and direct Wednesday when a reporter asked him if he believes Madigan and Cullerton have been working together to keep pension reform from happening.
“Yes,” Cross said.
Asked if it might have something to do with Madigan’s daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, considering a bid for the governor’s office, Cross again simply answered “yes.”
Pushed for an explanation, Cross said “The two most powerful guys in the state of Illinois can get anything done. They passed a tax increase in the middle of the night; highest tax increase in the history of the state. Two guys that passed a pension holiday in the mid-2000s without blinking an eye can’t get this done? Seriously.”
“Of course they could get it done. And for them to sit there … I think we’re seeing an example of a great tap dance, and if they want to get it done, they can get it done,” Cross added. “Clearly, if they want to get something done, they can get it, and the fact that they are not getting it done – to me – is a real tragedy.”
Madigan’s and Cullerton’s offices flatly denied any allegations of collusion to block pension reform.
Gov. Pat Quinn has asked Cullerton to pass legislation that would combine the two competing pension reform plans, and letting the courts sort out which parts of the two plans are constitutional.
The governor has scheduled a special session of the Illinois General Assembly on June 19 to address pension reform, but Madigan would not promise to call Quinn’s suggested hybrid legislation for a vote in the House, sticking behind his plan as the best way to fix the state’s $100 million pension debt.