CHICAGO – Last week’s latest credit downgrade may have been the final blow. The legacy of political boss Mike Madigan may finally be at stake. The unresolved state employee pension crisis and the mounting unpaid obligations seems to have pushed Madigan to his limits. Of course, it’s hard to tell with him.

But if the letter Madigan sent to the Mike Carrigan, head of ‘We Are One’ state employees’ coalition, is a true reflection of Madigan’s “mood,” and not simply a public charade, the Speaker is ready to shrug off union demands and push through a pension remix the unions won’t like. After the hundreds of millions of dollars the unions have spent at Madigan’s behest over the decades, it seems unlikely he would do such a thing. But with the Democrats in total control of all branches of government – with little threat from the Republicans – what does the Speaker have to fear?

Madigan’s letter:

Dear Mr. Carrigan:

I’d like to respond to your January 22, 2013 letter regarding the need to develop legislative solutions to address the underfunding of the state’s pension systems. Your interest in taking a more active role on this issue is welcome.

However, your suggestion of a meeting in Burr Ridge is not timely. A summit on this topic could have been called several years ago when we first started to grapple with this complex and controversial topic. A number of proposals have advanced since that time, but we have not been able to assemble the necessary bipartisan coalition to approve a plan that would stabilize the state systems for current and future retirees.

Bipartisan? When was the minority Party invited to the table?

A plan? Haven’t the Democrats implemented their plan – raising taxes?

Your letter implies pension reforms faltered because the concerns of labor were not considered. In my view, the positions of organized labor were taken into account during the 2012 legislative session. I recall no fewer than eight high-level meetings that took place with labor, legislative leaders and the governor. At that time, I felt there was little willingness from representatives of labor to draft a comprehensive, common-sense solution.

The residents of Illinois have been asked to shoulder a higher tax burden in recent years.


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