EDITORIAL: Illinois must act on pension reform

2013-06-06T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Illinois must act on pension reform nwitimes.com
June 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Illinois General Assembly's failure to enact meaningful public employee pension reform is shameful.

The Legislature adjourned Friday without achieving what should have been one of its primary aims — to finally address the nearly $100 billion pension crisis.

Gov. Pat Quinn's frustration with the Legislature has been apparent. "If I could issue an executive order to resolve the pension crisis, I would have done it a long time ago," Quinn said Monday. "But I cannot act alone. Legislators must send me a bill to get this job done."

Quinn's remarks came after Fitch Ratings downgraded the state's credit rating to A-, from A, following the failed legislative session.

Illinois already has the lowest credit rating of any state. That makes it more costly for Illinois taxpayers whenever the state has to borrow money. This problem cannot continue.

A knee-jerk reaction might be to lock lawmakers in the Statehouse until they approve a solution. But each day the Legislature is in session costs money, and the taxpayers have already been fleeced as it is.

What must happen now is for Senate President John Cullerton, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Quinn to put their heads together, and keep them together, until they agree on a palatable solution.

Solving this pension crisis won't be without pain — the full annual payment in 2014 is about $6 billion, 20 percent of the state's general fund — and it won't come without complaining. It might also come at the cost of political careers. But it has to happen to ensure the state's future.

Illinois has become the laughingstock of the nation. Indiana has seen economic development success because of the failed leadership in Springfield. Businesses spooked by Springfield's failure to solve the state's problems are fleeing Illinois. As much as Hoosiers appreciate the extra businesses, Illinois residents deserve better than they're getting.

These delays are costing Illinois taxpayers an estimated $17 million a day. Not a year, not a month, not a week, but $17 million a day. That's inexcusable.

The bill for skipping payments, or not paying enough, over the decades is coming due.

The Legislature's continued inaction will make it more and more difficult for the state to function, and it will make the final solution all the more painful.

Cullerton, Madigan and Quinn must fix this problem, not idly stand by while the state's credit rating continues to be destroyed and worrried businesses continue to flee the state.

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