CHAMPAIGN — Gov. Pat Quinn gave another indication yet on Thursday that he will propose major public pension changes later this year, perhaps as part of his state budget address on Feb. 22.
Quinn, on campus for the announcement of a proposed campus center for wounded veterans, hinted that his pension reforms will include greater contributions from universities and other public bodies, rather than just the state government.
The governor met with university presidents in Springfield on Wednesday. He was asked if his conversation included discussion of the state's severe retirement funding problem.
"I think a lot of the university presidents understand that that pension stabilization and strengthening involves everybody who employs those who are beneficiaries," Quinn said. "About 22 percent of the state pension payments is for state employees. The rest is for university employees and also school teachers at the local levels. I think that universities, community colleges, school districts have a role to play here.
"We'll work it out. We have a working group on that. The bottom line is we've got to solve the problem."
On other topics:
— Quinn defended the state's business climate, saying that Caterpillar's decision not to relocate a plant in Japan to Illinois was about the lack of a deepwater port, not about the state's economy.
"Caterpillar is a fine company and it had a great year last year. As a matter of fact, they had their best year in 64 years," he said, adding that its new plant "needed a deep sea ocean port. The last time I checked, we don't have much oceanfront property in Illinois."
He noted that both Ford and Chrysler recently announced employment increases at their Illinois plants.
— He said his proposed $164 million abolishment of a natural gas tax would help families, businesses, and farmers who use gas to dry grain. He said lawmakers would face a choice this year between his "targeted tax relief" and continuing existing tax breaks.
"There's a loophole lobby that's been there forever," he said. "A lot of those loopholes are outdated, they're ineffective, they don't produce jobs at all for our state."