Former Governor Edgar tells the state on pensions: “Pay up.”

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar. “Pay what you owe.”

Crain’s Greg Hinz reports on former GOP Governor Jim Edgar’s views on the pension issue. Edgar finds no common ground with today’s GOP, the Democrats or even the Civic Committee.

Mr. Edgar said he wouldn’t have called that late-August special legislative session that Mr. Quinn called — not without some reason to think that something was likely to happen. All that did is rile up the various factions, he said. Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan “is a smart guy. But he can’t govern the state. Only the governor can.”

 But, the session having been called, Mr. Edgar said he would have adopted an idea of Mr. Quinn’s and pushed a bill to abolish just one of the state’s five pension funds, the one that covers current and retired lawmakers.

 The reason is that the wider bill being pushed by many Democrats, particularly Senate President John Cullerton, may well be unconstitutional because it slashes benefits for those already on the state payroll. Passing the legislators-only bill would have allowed an immediate, low-complications means to begin the inevitable court challenge and see what the judges will allow, he said.

I took that as a shot at Springfield Republicans and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, both of which have been pushing an “all or nothing” approach with much deeper cuts in benefits.

 Now, Mr. Edgar is not exactly a disinterested figure here.

 He draws a $132,000 annual state pension, and when he was governor he approved a back-loaded pension plan that put off big increases in state pension contributions until well after he left office.

 Still, the downstate Republican was as tight with a buck as any governor in memory. Which is why I find his bottom line here so distressing: The state ultimately may have no choice except to just pay what’s owed — $83 billion (the current official estimate) up to perhaps $200 billion, depending on who’s counting.

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