HYDE PARK — Gov. Pat Quinn got a grilling three times over Tuesday at the University of Chicago about the Illinois legislature’s failure to pass a pension reform bill before adjourning Friday, and also faced tough questions about the failure of a gay marriage bill.
Students in the closed luncheon said David Axelrod, the institute’s founder and a former consultant to President Barack Obama, didn’t pull any punches in asking Quinn about pension reform. The students followed up with their own questions on the issues and then Quinn faced questions on it from the media.
Axelrod also pressed the governor on the legislature's failure to approve gay marriage legislation and possible political challengers to his office. Axelrod said he has known Quinn for a long time and felt comfortable questioning him on his handling of pension reform and gay marriage legislation, but declined to comment on the governor’s answers.
“I made it crystal clear to John Cullerton that we need to get this done,” Quinn said, lamenting the recent credit downgrade for the state by Fitch and Moody’s. “I told him what the stakes are for Illinois.”
Quinn said he tried Tuesday to reach Madigan, who does not have a cell phone, but spoke with Madigan’s wife.
“It is important for the speaker to realize that it’s important for him to work together with his counterpart in the Senate to get comprehensive pension reform done,” Quinn said.
Students that lingered for the news conference said Quinn told them the same things he told the press, but he was also asked about labor and union issues during the luncheon.
Quinn said pension reform was his priority, but added he was disheartened that the legislature failed to vote on a gay marriage proposal.
“I was very disappointed a vote was not taken Friday. A vote should have been taken,” Quinn said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to get a vote as soon as I can.”
The governor dismissed questions about political challengers critical of his handling of pension reform.
“There’s always going to be huffing and puffing by people on the sidelines who want to be candidates for this office and others,” Quinn said.