Legislators balk, bond raters talk
Illinois taxpayers have low expectation of their state elected officials, justifiably so.
It was just a matter of time — and not much time at that — before the credit-rating agencies responded to our state legislators' failure/refusal to face up to the financial problems surrounding the state's public pension systems.
Legislators met in a one-day special session on Aug. 17, twiddled their thumbs for a few hours and went home having accomplished exactly nothing. The politics of the November election intruded on policy problems.
Five days later, Standard & Poor's downgraded Illinois' debt rating to A, six steps from the top of the bond-rating ladder, and warned that more downgrades are coming if Illinois doesn't get its fiscal house in order.
Many people may not realize it, but debt ratings mean a lot in the most practical of terms — money.
The lower the state's debt rating goes, the higher the interest it must pay when it seeks to borrow money in the bond market.
The Civic Federation of Chicago estimates that the state's poor credit rating costs Illinois taxpayers an extra $550 million a year.
That's not chump change. It's real money, even by government standards, and it's coming out of taxpayers' pockets.
If you see one of your legislators, ask him or her what they're doing about it. Make them tell you that, collectively, they are doing nothing and planning on continuing to do nothing until the post-election veto session.
Time, as they say, is money — and in this case, plenty of it.