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Illinois pension crisis creates Pat Quinn/Paul Vallas ticket

When there was devastation in Haiti and in Chile, Paul Vallas traveled there because of a personal calling to take part in public service. The latest place calling him? Illinois.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Vallas — the former head of Chicago public schools — said of course he wasn’t equating natural disasters in other countries with Illinois’ economic predicament. He did repeatedly talk about Gov. Pat Quinn’s “legacy” attempt to fix the state’s pension problem. Vallas said it was his commitment to a life of public service that got him to agree to run as Gov. Pat Quinn’s Lieutenant Governor.

It was clear that Vallas is in lock-step with Quinn’s agenda to reform pension.

“The number one need is to get the pension issue resolved. And that is to solve the problem permanently…because that impacts everything,” Vallas said. “I think that’s the number one issue and everything else takes a backseat to that… The political focus has to be on resolving this issue.”

Quinn said Vallas has had a purposeful life and is driven by “tremendous commitment and idealism.”

“This is a man who takes on some of the toughest challenges in America,” Quinn said of Vallas. “He puts his body and soul into it. He has a servant’s heart.”

Quinn defended a lack of diversity on his ticket, pointing to people in his administration.

“Our team I think is very diverse. The cabinet members I’ve named, the deputy governor,” Quinn said. “I work with everybody across Illinois, whatever their background, whatever their region.”

Vallas dismissed criticism of his tenure in Connecticut schools, saying he’s always dropped into controversial situations that brings naysayers. Instead, he said he was proud of balancing a budget in two years.

“I not only gave teacher salary increases,” Vallas said. “I did it without laying off a single teacher and I did it without closing a single school and I did it without chartering a single school.”

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