CHICAGO — Gov. Pat Quinn opened the news conference
following his speech at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting by talking about
the musical “Million Dollar Quartet,” which follows the famous meeting of music
legends Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis on Dec. 4,
“The musical is about that night, and it is the
longest-running play in Illinois. It’s played at the state fair, and we hope we
get them again this coming year,” Quinn told reporters.
It was a much bigger sum, however, that dominated the press
conference: The newly inked deal to help solve the $100 billion unfunded public
pension liability in Illinois.
Quinn said he signed the controversial bill on Dec. 5 with
little fanfare to get the plan in place as quickly as possible.
“Most of the bills I sign, I can’t sign them all in public
ceremonies. With respect to this particular bill, we wanted to act quickly, and
as quickly as we acted, it had a positive effect on the credit markets for
Illinois debt and bonds. We wanted to act promptly because we have to save as
much money as we can for the people of our state,” he said
Quinn said he is confident the bill can survive promised
challenges to it, primarily by the labor unions that represent state employees
and retirees in the state.
“As far as the law itself, this is a valid, constitutional
law. That’s the presumption of the constitution, and I think we will survive any
kind of attack that anyone might bring against the law,” he said.
Quinn said that the bill goes toward protecting the future
retirements of current state workers.
“It is not easy, but I think it’s important to protect the
retirement security of everyone in our state and including our public employees,
and that’s what we had to do. You cannot have, for decade after decade after
decade, pension liability accumulating and getting deeper and deeper. It’s not
going to be there if we didn’t act promptly,” he said.
Quinn did not confirm, nor deny, that he will ask for an
extension of the state’s temporary income tax increase in the 2015 state budget.
“I think we’ll deal with that next year when the budget
comes up and things like that,” he said.
Quinn reiterated his support for ethanol and for promoting
the growth of E-15 in the state. During his speech to the IFB annual meeting
audience, he said he would urge that the Renewable Fuel Standard remain at
current levels instead of being cut, as proposed by the U.S. Environmental
“This is a very, very important issue for Illinois. We want
to make sure the Renewable Fuel Standard is not relaxed — it should be
protected. I believe in E-15, as well as what we currently have, E-10, but I
think it’s important for Washington to understand that having a strong ethanol
industry is important to our economy and our energy independence,” he said.
Quinn said he hopes to continue his friendship with Phil
Nelson, the outgoing president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, and praised Nelson’s
leadership of Illinois agriculture and of the Illinois Farm Bureau.
“I really want to salute Phil for a decade of commitment to
Illinois agriculture. He was always there for me and for anyone who needed a
helping hand. He really was a great leader of this organization, and I look
forward to a friendship for years to come,” the governor said.