A costly wait for election day

Gov. Pat Quinn says the unfunded liability of the state's public pension plans is growing by $12.6 million a day. Do our legislators care?

Back in May, while the General Assembly still was in session, everyone of importance acknowledged that legislators had no choice but to pass legislation addressing the serious financial problems surrounding Illinois' public pensions.

Nothing happened, and the Legislature adjourned, prompting Gov. Pat Quinn to announced that he would immediately begin working to carve out an agreement with Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.

Nothing happened, and now it's July. Gov. Quinn says he's still pushing for action, noting earlier this week that "summertime is a good time to act" and warning that "legislators have to be on their toes."

"This is a matter that has been confounding our state for decades, and it must be resolved, now," he said.

It is, of course, important that the Legislature address this issue. Illinois' public pensions are underfunded by more than $80 billion, and the problem is rapidly getting worse.

By Quinn's estimate, the underfunding grows by $12.6 million each day — an extra $378 million just for June.

So time should be of the essence. Unfortunately, it's not.

A top legislative lieutenant to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan this week said she doesn't expect legislators to act on the pension issue until after the November elections, another four months minimum.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and a member of Quinn's pension committee, acknowledged the delay is "not ideal," a gross understatement, but is unavoidable because of a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over a proposal to shift part of teachers' pension costs from the state to local school districts.

There are a number of other difficult issues under discussion — cutting back pensioners' cost of living increases, raising the retirement age and increasing employee contributions — that have candidates in the fall election nervous. They prefer to wait until they won't be accountable to the voters before taking action.

Quinn could not be more correct about the need for action now. But he's not on the fall ballot, and his futile pronouncements show how little influence he has over legislative leaders.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on July 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm

It will happen after the election.  Once again, the News Gazette lives up to it's reputation of "conservative viewpoints".  One would think that with all of the university, and state employees in the area the News Gazette would present a balanced opinion.   Well, it is the only newspaper in town....   The "cutting back pensioners' cost of living increases" is based on the retiree's choice of having no health insurance, or accepting the loss of the cost of living annual increase.  Under SB1313 which was passed, the retirees already will have to pay a percentage of what was their "promised" earned health insurance.  Add to that the "pension reform".  That means that retirees with a pre-existing condition will have to accept the coersion since the National Health Care mandate regarding pre-existing conditions does not take effect until Jan. 2014.  It will be cheaper for those retirees to pay for a Medicare supplemental insurance plan than stay with the state's proposed plan.  Central Management Services is trying to create the rates now.   For an employee with 40 plus years of service, and on Medicare; the cost proposed will be 25% of the health insurance cost.  A supplemental plan is cheaper.  However; the state wants the "pension reform" to be completed by May, 2013, seven months before the pre-existing condition clause in the National plan takes effect.  Most retirees have pre-existing conditions.  That is why they will be forced to accept the loss of their cost of living benefit in addition to paying for their "promised" earned health insurance.  In addition, they are accepting that their previous employer will keep it's word.  They all know that will not happen based on what is happening now.  Thank you, News Gazette for whipping up the howling mob with your "traditionally conservative viewpoints".