DECATUR — Electronic democracy is the way to go for Illinois to solve its pension crisis, according to Gov. Pat Quinn.
The governor shed some light on his so-called grassroots campaign to reform the state’s pension system at a Saturday morning stop in Decatur that was unrelated to his visit to unveil “The Portrait of a Soldier” exhibit at the Decatur Public Library.
While details remain vague, Quinn said he hopes to use the Internet and social media to inform people on the issue and to rally people to contact their lawmakers.
“Having the power of the Internet … is a good way to get the message across on what we have to do for the public,” he said.
Lawmakers and Quinn have been searching for a way to address the more than $83 billion in unfunded liability in the retirement systems affecting state workers, teachers, university workers, members of the General Assembly and judges.
A special session was held in Springfield last month to pass some pension reform, but both the House and Senate left the capitol without passing any measures to address the problem. Quinn responded by saying he would activate a grassroots effort to raise awareness about Illinois’ pension problem.
Quinn said he will be meeting with legislative leaders within the next two weeks to lay groundwork for pension reform before he moves on with the campaign.
The governor has a long history of grassroots efforts, including his successful 1980 statewide campaign to reduce the number of lawmakers from 177 to its current 118.
While lawmakers already hear from their constituents, Quinn hopes his campaign can create a unified voice among citizens to lobby for reform.
“I think this will better channel public sentiment and energy into a common movement,” he said. “We have to do that here.”
Lawmakers are not scheduled to meet again until after the November elections, where reform measures could be passed during the lame-duck session.