Boo-birds target Gov. Quinn

Boo-birds target Gov. Quinn

Angry displays by union members show how difficult the public pension issue is for our elected officials.

Politicians long for public adoration, but sometimes things just don't work out. That was the case for Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday during his Governor's Day visit to the Illinois State Fair.

Union members showed up to heap nonstop derision on Quinn, booing him even while he was eating lunch.

That's what happens when there's not enough money to go around.

Union members, particularly those affiliated with public employee unions, are focusing their ire on Quinn because of his insistence that legislators address the financial problems surrounding the state's public employee pension systems. They're underfunded by $83 billion, their financial weakness prompting Quinn to call today's special legislative session.

Quinn wants members of the House and Senate to pass a comprehensive fix to the problem, but that will require reductions in benefits, increases in contributions or some combination of the two.

That's the last thing legislators want to do, particularly in an election year.

So it's a standoff of sorts, Democrat Quinn trying to lead a Democratic-controlled Legislature that appears unwilling to follow. Meanwhile, union members, who traditionally vote Democratic and work for and contribute to Democratic candidates, are growing increasingly restive.

To his credit, Quinn took the booing like a man. He told reporters that "you have to have a tough hide" if you're governor and said the price of leadership sometimes requires making "difficult but necessary" decisions.

He's right. Today's activities in Springfield will show whether legislators agree with him.

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