"I don't suppose the lawmakers suddenly said, 'Gee, oh, the light has hit, the bulb has gone off in my head. It's time to get serious,'" Currie said. "But I do think we have been moving toward becoming more serious over time."
Rather than accept Quinn's criticism of inaction, Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, tossed it back at the governor.
"I think most of the work that has been done on pensions has come out of the General Assembly and not out of the governor's office," she said. "The governor is the one that has been woefully absent."
The state's public employee and teacher unions responded to Quinn's pension remarks by contending that the governor was offering "a false choice" between funding retirement benefits or cutting education.
"Springfield lawmakers created the massive pension debt by skipping payments and borrowing more," said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. "To call that debt an education expense is not only a gimmick, but an insult to teachers everywhere. We are not to blame, and our students shouldn't suffer."
Quinn also suggested suspending what he called business tax loopholes that would have generated $445 million this budget year. One would result in taxing foreign dividends earned by some corporations. Another would end a tax break for products made out of state.
The new money would help pay down the state's near $10 billion backlog of overdue bills to providers of state services, but the approach has failed to gain traction in the past.
"Why should we give costly, ineffective loopholes to some of the biggest and most profitable corporations on Earth when we have bills to pay?" Quinn asked.
Quinn also wants to reduce the amount of money cities and transit agencies receive from the state. Under current law, that money increases each year without review. He wants to stop that and roll back spending to 2012 levels, which would amount to a $241.2 million cut.
Even before he began his speech, Quinn found himself at odds with the Democratic-run Legislature.
Quinn's general fund budget plan would spend $35.6 billion from July of this year until next. A day earlier, House Democrats and Republicans set a spending limit of just less than $35.1 billion — a difference of about $500 million. The current operating budget is $34.4 billion.
Madigan warned that lawmakers were unlikely to go beyond the spending limits, raising questions about whether they would set aside enough money to give pay increases to state union workers as required under a tentative agreement struck with Quinn's office late last week.
"My expectation is that the budget-makers in the House and in the Senate will instruct the state agencies: 'You get X amount of appropriation, now you work through that amount of money and decide whether you want to do pay raises or lay off workers,'" Madigan said.
Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the Northbrook Democrat who has served as a lead House negotiator on pension reforms, said Quinn's finger-pointing speech wasn't helpful.
"Let's just move ahead and get something done," she said.
Tribune reporters Rick Pearson and Rafael Guerrero contributed.