Illinois' poor financial reputation is in danger of getting worse.
Legislators who think there's no price to pay for ignoring the state's public pension woes didn't have to wait long to find out they are wrong.
Just a few days after Gov. Pat Quinn's special legislative session fell flat on its face, the nation's bond credit rating agencies announced that the state's failure to act could result in another drop in the state's credit ratings.
Illinois already enjoys the lowest bond credit ratings in the nation — even lower than California. Another decline in the state's credit rating means that taxpayers will have to pay even higher interest rates when it borrows money by selling bonds.
Of course, if the state's credit goes low enough no one will buy Illinois' bonds because the risk of default would be too great.
That's not a danger now, of course, and it probably won't get that far.
Illinois' declining bond rating so far has been the one thing that has gotten the attention of our elected officials. Indeed, some have speculated that fear about the state's credit status is one factor that will move legislators to action.
Apparently, our legislators weren't thinking about that last week when they flatly refused to deal seriously with the $83 billion-plus unfunded status of Illinois' five public retirement systems.
They were thinking about November and about how they didn't want to cast a tough vote that might anger some constituencies, particularly public employees, before Election Day.
Standard & Poor's Rating Services analyst Robin Prunty said the state's inaction is forcing her organization to review "the total credit picture, including the budget, pensions, etc.," and, in an understated way, she was critical of legislative inaction.
"Certainly, the lack of action on pensions is not a credit positive," she said.
Standard & Poor's won't find much good news when it looks at the state's complete financial picture.
Illinois remains many billions of dollars in debt, despite the 67 percent state income tax increase approved in January 2011. The state's budget picture is equally shaky, with severe reductions in Medicaid spending being necessary to pass a $33.7 billion budget for the current fiscal year.
Circumstances, obviously, are dire. How much worse will they get before legislators get serious about addressing the problem?