SPRINGFIELD — It appears unlikely Gov. Pat Quinn will push hard this spring to shift some of the state’s skyrocketing pension costs off on local school districts and universities.
A top official in the governor’s budget office downplayed Quinn’s recent comments on such a move, which school districts say could either trigger massive cuts in local school programs or force downstate and suburban districts to seek property tax increases.
Kelly Kraft, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, said the idea is “a concept” at the moment.
“This is just something we’re taking a look at,” Kraft said.
Concern about rising pension costs were highlighted in a report issued Monday by the Chicago-based Civic Federation showing Illinois’ unpaid bills may more than triple to $34.8 billion by 2017 unless Quinn and the General Assembly address pension and Medicaid costs.
Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton each have suggested that local school districts and universities contribute a larger share of employee retirement costs to help bring down the state’s pension costs.
“Everyone who has employees in the pension system should contribute something to the pensions,” Quinn said.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed Tuesday that Quinn would be hard-pressed to get such a controversial measure through the General Assembly during an election year, especially when it could result in drastic property tax hikes for homeowners.
“I think its dead on arrival,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “I don’t think you’re going to see a whole lot of support for that.”
“I know I can’t support it,” said state Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan. “I just can’t see them doing that.”
“I think it would be very difficult to get anywhere with this,” added state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline.