Are Madigan and Cullerton conspiring on pension inertia to benefit Lisa? Cross says: ‘Yes’

SHARE Are Madigan and Cullerton conspiring on pension inertia to benefit Lisa? Cross says: ‘Yes’
SHARE Are Madigan and Cullerton conspiring on pension inertia to benefit Lisa? Cross says: ‘Yes’

SPRINGFIELD-House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have been close political allies for years.

Cullerton is the godfather of Madigan’s son, Andrew, and once, as a House member, served as the speaker’s floor leader.

So could the two Chicago Democrats somehow be choreographing an impasse on pension reform to benefit a possible 2014 run for governor by the speaker’s daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan?

The top House Republican told reporters at the Thompson Center Wednesday that he thinks so.

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said there is merit to talk that the two Democratic legislative leaders might be acting in tandem to deny Gov. Pat Quinn an important legislative trophy – pension reform – going into a possible primary battle with Lisa Madigan.

Quinn has butted heads with the two since 2009 to get movement on pension reform but to no avail, and the inertia has fueled the perception that Quinn is ineffectual in getting things through the Legislature.

So Wednesday, when asked if Cullerton and Madigan might be conspiring to create a pension impasse, Cross wasted no time in answering, “Yes.”

Because of the attorney general possibly running for governor?

“Yes,” Cross continued.

Then, pressed on how that theory might have credence, Cross said, “The two most powerful guys in the state of Illinois can get anything done. They pass a tax increase in the middle of the night, highest tax increase in the history of the state. Two guys that passed a pension holiday in the mid 2000s without blinking an eye can’t get this done? Seriously? I mean seriously. Of course, they can get it done.

“I think we’re seeing an example of a great tap dance, and if they want to get it done, they can get it done,” Cross said in a news conference intended to tout a college affordability initiative.

Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon immediately shot down the idea when informed of Cross’ remarks, noting that her boss has no intention of endorsing in a 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

“That’s ridiculous. The end,” Phelon said in dismissing the conspiracy theory.

In a video posted to the Sun-Times’ Early & Often politics blog, the attorney general first told the newspaper Saturday that she is “seriously considering” a run for governor in 2014 but wouldn’t lay out a timetable on when she would sort out her future political plans.

In another video posted to the blog, the three-term attorney general also weighed in on pension reform, urging lawmakers to “pass something” but declining to endorse either the House or Senate’s handiwork.

Earlier this week, the attorney general scoffed at suggestions that pension inaction was deliberate and, somehow, setting her up to ride in and clean house.

“It’s absurd. It’s June of 2013. The next governor won’t be sworn in until January of 2015. If we haven’t cleaned up and reformed the pension system by then, we’ll have much greater problems,” she said.

“It inures to nobody’s benefit whatsoever for the pension crisis to continue in the state of Illinois.”

The speaker’s camp invoked sarcasm when told of Cross’ remarks.

“Not familiar with Tom’s comments,” said Steve Brown, a spokesman for the speaker. “I think we’re stil celebrating the arrival of his 30-vote bloc for pension reform.”

The House vote in early May for Senate Bill 1 carried only 20 of the 47 possible Republican votes in the House despite Cross being a co-sponsor of the legislation with the speaker.

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