Illinois state elected officials are working on creating a budget for the new fiscal year. But even once that budget is agreed upon, there won't be nearly as much money available for schools or social services as there could be, because the state's pension liabilities are eating it all up. Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek explains:
The plain, painful truth is this: Every dollar spent on pensions in Illinois is a dollar not spent in a classroom or helping someone sick or disabled or on keeping all of us safe.
The constitution guarantees it. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed it earlier this year. Years of skipping payments or underfunding the systems now will gnaw at Illinoisans for generations to come.
Gov. Bruce Rauner attempted a few weeks ago to offer up a new approach to pension changes to try to ease the crushing debt burden and last week lawmakers debated that proposal. In short, Rauner adopted the approach long advocated by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who suggests changes can be made if state workers and teachers voluntarily give up benefits in return for getting something else.
Rauner's suggestion is to give employees incentives such as vacation or bonuses in return for moving to a less costly pension plan. At a pension committee hearing in Springfield, representatives for three major unions strongly rejected the suggestion. An AFSCME 31 representative testified that the idea was yet another unconstitutional "dead end."
With a unanimous Supreme Court ruling on his side, he most assuredly is right.
Union members talk about raising revenue to pay for our worst-in-the-nation pension debt of more than $100 billion. At the hearing, one of them suggested the one other approach that might work and has been used before is to offer early retirement packages to public workers.
Read the rest of Doubek's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.
Speaking of schools and pensions, watch how school districts are raising their pension payments, and you end up paying for them: