Cullerton would support capital bill talks; hopes for pension reform accord

Illinois Sen. John Sullivan, left, Quincy University President Robert Gervasi and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton tour the QU campus Monday. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Nov. 25, 2013 6:03 pm Updated: Dec. 9, 2013 6:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said during a visit to Quincy that he would be interested in seeing a new capital bill for the state next year, but he mentioned some of the issues that would have to be overcome.

The Chicago Democrat held a news conference after touring Quincy University on Monday afternoon. He said there are lots of capital needs around the state and funds from the bill passed nearly five years ago have been spent.

“As long as Republicans are willing to sit down and talk about those things I am as well,” Cullerton said.

He said one hurdle would be coming up with revenue to pay off bonds to cover the construction projects. The 2009 capital program relied on liquor taxes, gambling revenues and other fees or taxes. It gained Republican votes, but tax increases have generally been opposed by the GOP.

“We have to pass it out of both chambers. There’ll be a governor’s race going on. We’d have to have bipartisan support, perhaps even from the two people running for governor,” Cullerton said.

“If that can happen and the politics can be put aside, even though it’s an election year, it’s something that I’d be very much in favor of.”

Cullerton has not yet called members of the Senate to Springfield for a special session, but he confirmed that if a deal on pension reform can be worked out a session will likely be called for December 3.

This is the third time Cullerton has been to Quincy in the past five years. He stayed the night with state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, and got to accompany Sullivan during his morning routine on the farm.

“It’s good for me to get around the state,” Cullerton said. “I got to learn a little about the farm community.”

He also said the tour of Quincy University was helpful. The 2009 capital bill had funding for projects at the university.

One part of the tour included a mock trial for QU’s pre-law segment. Cullerton, an attorney who graduated from Loyola University, told class members about his first day on the job as a public defender.

Sullivan, who graduated from what was then Quincy College, said one of his regrets was not going on to law school. He said if a pre-law program had been available near the end of the 1970s, he might have made that choice.

Sullivan and Cullerton described the differences between their Senate districts to the QU students. Sullivan has the largest geographic district in the state Senate with about 600,000 square miles in it. Cullerton’s district is one of the smallest, with about eight square miles, including Wrigley Field.

Both men have about 220,000 residents in their districts.

Cullerton said Sullivan’s district also is different because people in Western Illinois usually know their local lawmakers. He said Chicago area lawmakers often are not well recognized because constituents often look more to the Chicago mayor and City Council or to members of Congress.

Cullerton praised Western Illinois for its low unemployment rates and the way the Tri-State Development Summit has fostered cooperation and partnership on projects across state lines from Western Illinois, to Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa.