Our local state senators need to be part of the solution to Illinois' public pension systems.
With the General Assembly scheduled to adjourn today, time to act on Illinois' public pension crisis is growing short.
To say there is a political logjam surrounding the issue would be to understate the problem.
The Senate and the House have each passed different plans.
There's no question it's a tough issue — politically and financially. The state's public pensions are underfunded by roughly $100 billion, and if they are to avoid collapse, dramatic changes must be made. Unfortunately, it's the members of those systems who are being asked to bear the brunt of the sacrifice, and some legislators fear the political blow-back from angry constituents.
As things now stand, attention is focused on the Illinois Senate, where Senate President John Cullerton has so far refused to schedule a vote on the proposal drafted by House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Cullerton needs to call the bill for a vote and our local senators — Chapin Rose, Dale Righter, Jason Barickman and Mike Frerichs — need to support it. It's the only proposal under consideration that takes a significant step toward addressing the problem. (Editor's note: the bill, SB1, was called for a vote on Thursday night and failed. Rose, Frerichs, Barickman and Righter voted against it.)
These senators have been particularly reluctant to embrace needed changes in the state's public pension plans, mostly contending they embrace the general idea while rejecting specific proposals. Sens. Rose and Frerichs jumped on a pension proposal drafted by Cullerton, but only after an endorsement from state labor organizations provided them the political cover they sought. Unfortunately, the Cullerton proposal offers only a small improvement in the context of a giant problem.
The future of the state and its public pensions systems hangs in the balance. It's time for statesmanship, not political calculation.