Sometimes it's good to spell things out and create lists, so I'm going to try a bit of that today in an attempt to help more of us understand why we should be actively engaged in pushing our state legislators to do something to resolve the state's $100 billion pension debt.
Think it doesn't concern you? Why should you care?
1. If you're 60-something and your property taxes are going up, get ready, your income taxes could be too. Again. Raising some income taxes is one of the ways some state officials are talking about dealing with the pension debt. We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem, they say. We note taxpayers already have been paying 67 percent more in income taxes the past few years, yet we're making no headway on our debt and unpaid bills.
2. If you're 60-something or older with children and grandchildren, you could pay more, your children could pay more, and your school-aged grandchildren already are getting less school aid. State school spending has been cut every year since 2009.
3. If you're a teen, 20- or 30-something Illinois resident, look out. You're the prime target to get socked with the bill in 30 years when the state's pension funds are literally projected to run dry if something isn't done to fix this debt now. So, if you have or are planning on having some college loans, some car loans, maybe a mortgage by then, better plan for a lot more debt to pay because this bill is coming due when you're in your prime and the generation in charge.
4. Wait? What? OK, let's try to wrap our brains around it this way. Illinoisans are not dealing with $100 billion in pension debt and another roughly $7 billion in bills for work people have done for Illinois. The non-partisan Truth In Accounting organization says that if we had to pay all those bills right now, today, it would cost every Illinois tax filer $31,600. But wait, that number is based on the latest figures from 2011 so it's probably actually a bit higher. Do you have an extra $35,000 to spare? Does every other member of your family who's old enough to pay taxes have $35,000 to spare?
5. Let's stick with that lower number for this one. $31,500. That's tuition for a year at a pretty good university. That's a pretty decent luxury car. Or a pretty great wedding. Heck, that's a year's salary for plenty of Illinoisans. Want to hand over your paychecks for the next year so Illinois can meet its obligations?
6. If you're a state retiree, of course, you're worried about this crisis because it could affect your retirement security, and unfortunately, in a negative way.
7. If you're a state worker, middle-aged or younger like a teacher or prison guard or the people who issue drivers' licenses, you're also worried about taking a hit to your retirement. But know this, you face the very real prospect of little to no money for retirement in 30 years if nothing is done to fix a system that is insolvent now.
8. So what, you still say? That problem is 30 years away, something will get done by then? Let someone else worry about it later! Think again. The pension debt keeps spiraling out of control and sucking your hard-earned money. Now.
9. In a few months, according to the Civic Federation non-partisan budget watchdog institution, one quarter of every dollar we send to Springfield will go to try to keep state pensions afloat. In the last six months alone, the pension debt has grown by at least $15 billion. We're just not keeping up.
10. Still wondering why the pension crisis should matter to you? Do you care about anyone _ children, teens, adults _ who work in or benefit from education? They'll be dealing with $400 million less in funding starting this summer. Know anyone who takes care of sick people? Or who benefits from or works for a non-profit? All those people are not getting paid for months and months and months. Hit a pothole yourself lately or wonder about a crumbling bridge as you ride over it? Angry about a prison that closed downstate and took your local economy too?
In one way or another, it all comes back to our pension crisis, the worst financial crisis we've ever encountered. Care more now? Act. Tell your state officials they must act. Demand a solution that works.
- See more at Reboot Illinois