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Area reps say Quinn should have talked more about pensions

illinois Congresswoman LindChapLaVi(D-Aurora) 83rd District

illinois Congresswoman Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) 83rd District

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Updated: March 8, 2013 7:48AM

Area representatives weighed in on Quinn’s State of the State speech, saying it had positives but also left some things out.

State Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) was one of the legislators who feel the pressure of pension reform needed more attention from the governor.

“He made some good points on being humanistic in a lot of ways, talking about veterans, talking about people who face obstacles,” Senger said, but noted that a pension remedy remains the body’s biggest challenge.

She has been extensively involved in talks about the pension issue, and is now the spokesperson for the House pension committee.

“We know what we need to do, but there’s no progress politically,” Senger said. “That’s the obstacle that we need to overcome. Even though the governor made some really good comments about the things we did, the biggest problem is still not solved. ... We really need to get the major monkey off our backs.”

As for Quinn’s plan to hike the state’s hourly minimum wage from the current $8.25 to $10, Senger said it wasn’t clear how the increase would be implemented, and noted that “we have a lot of needs in the state, including people who need to be on Medicaid,” and no certain way to fund those needs.

She said she understands that a family cannot easily get by on a single minimum-wage earner who brings home a minimumn wage paycheck, and said many households have to be supported by more than one income.

Solutions will entail extensive give and take by everyone, Senger said.

“There’s a lot of people who tell me they can’t give up a small (cost of living increase), and yet we have people living on the street,” she said.

There did seem to be a more receptive atmosphere evident in the chamber, Senger said, relative to years past.

“Last year during the course of his speech he didn’t get any applause at all in the course of things,” she said. “This year he did.”

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) said she and fellow Auroran and Democrat Sen. Linda Holmes watched the speech together.

“We’re at a very difficult time with our history in the state right now,” Chapa LaVia said.

She’s working with a bunch of stakeholders on pension reform at a roundtable Feb. 27. Like her legislative peers, Chapa LaVia recognizes the $97 billion pension shortfall as the 800-pound gorilla in the General Assembly chamber.

“This is a united front, and I’m really proud. Darlene Senger has been helping me, Senator Holmes,” she said. “We’re excited about that.”

They‘ve had successes in the past, she added, that show they’re able to reach across the aisle and work together and get things done.

Chapa LaVia was disappointed that Quinn’s comments didn’t address the state’s bond rating going down to an unprecedented low, or the graduated tax issue, or the cost shift proposal as a potential route toward pension reform.

“I would really have liked to hear a solution-based speech,” she said, likening Quinn’s comments to a nice-looking car that’s had its motor taken out. “Once you look under the hood you realize there’s no engine there.”

More specifics would have been helpful, she said.

“We have a lot of rolling up of our sleeves to do, and I really wish he would have talked more directly about that,” she said. “He gave silver lining, but there’s a lot in that rain cloud that’s getting ready to come down on the state.”

There has to be more focus on education, she said, including the pension mess.

“A reality check? I guess I would have liked to see a little more of that.”

Freshman lawmaker state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora), who represents parts of Naperville and Aurora, said the speech was interesting.

“As a first-time member, I thought that it was a great opportunity to hear the message... I hear hundreds of messages about the situation that our state is in, from residents of my district. The bottom line is we have to get our house in order. There are a lot of people out of work.”

Quinn has to work with the legislature to accomplish the state’s goals, she said. As a new lawmaker, Kifowit is working with colleagues to watch what’s proposed, she said, to see that it’s in the best interests of the residents.

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