Huffington Post's Keith Koeneman gives a refreshingly honest evaluation of the dire situation Illinois faces, due in part, to the head of Illinois Democratic Party, House Speaker Mike Madigan. Although Koeneman doesn't seem to think Illinois' slow destruction has anything much to do with the Democrats or Madigan's 28 year reign in the Illinois House, he describes the current dark situation accurately:
Finally, years of splurging have left Illinois in a fiscal crisis comparable to Greece, a small state known for its uncontrolled government spending and irresponsible public pension system. According to the nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability, Illinois has $85 billion in pension obligations that it is currently unable to pay. The situation is so dire that the Civic Federation, a highly respected financial watchdog group, has recently advocated sending Illinois into "fiscal rehab." "Illinois' fiscal crisis has been many years in the making," said its president Laurence Msall. "It was caused by more than 30 years of pension underfunding and many years of spending unfettered by the State's shrinking revenue resources. The Civic Federation does not enjoy advocating a significant tax increase in the middle of a difficult recession. However, continuing to do nothing would be by far a worse option."
But, an obligatory toast to a brighter future for this mess Madigan's overseen is tied in at the end of the Huff Post column:
This dire situation creates an opportunity for Mike Madigan to begin developing a positive political legacy: he should embrace dramatic pension reform. Illinois Senate Bill 512, which primarily focuses on reform of the pensions for new hires, is a good start. Its passage would stabilize pension contributions, improve funding levels and gradually decrease the state's unfunded pension liability. Madigan should call the bill for a vote immediately and use all of his legislative skills to make sure that it passes. He then should dedicate his considerable deal-making acumen to structure a legislative agreement on reducing the retirement liabilities associated with all public employees, including those already retired.
To do otherwise would risk letting Illinois become a failed state like Greece.
Oh yes, exactly what we silly conservative Republicans have been saying for years. There is no money tree in Illinois, only shredded not-so-deep pockets of hard-working, big-shouldered Illinois taxpayers. It will be us that is called upon to clean up this mess with more sacrifice - after all these years we've been dutifully paying our taxes to the Madigan-ruled Illinois Department of Revenue.
Pardon us, Huff Post, if we're just a little bitter. It'll take time, but we're sure to adjust sooner or later. At least, some of us will.