SPRINGFIELD – Illinois citizens are tired of hearing excuses on fixing the state’s public pensions and as legislators were summoned back to the Capitol on August 17, little progress has been made.
Back in February, when Governor Pat Quinn gave his annual State of the State Address, he stated that Illinois was headed toward a “rendezvous with reality,” in regards to the five pension systems. In that same address, he said that it would be a long hot summer for legislators if significant pension reform was not passed. Well now, after the Spring Session ended on May 31, with no pension reform, we are left with nothing but empty rhetoric.
Moody’s, Fitch and Standards & Poor’s rating companies have consistently warned investors about the solvency of Illinois and more importantly the massive $83 billion unfunded pension system liabilities. Moody’s alone was prepared in October 2011 to lowered the state’s bond rating to the lowest bond rating in the nation because of Illinois' inability to tackle the pension problem status, if legislators failed to take serious action during this year’s legislative session.
These warnings have gone unheeded by Governor Quinn and Democrat legislative majorities, because they continue to make excuses about the need for more studies or attempts to stall until after the 2012 election. The public has heard all of the excuses and they demand action because the problem only worsens as the day, months and years go by.
Legislators did take one small positive step in May, when the Senate passed House Bill 1447 to reform the General Assembly and State Employee Retirement Systems, as a means to begin moving the issue forward. I was pleased to support that bill and look forward to the day when the General Assembly passes real, substantive pension reform.
Sadly, it seems the issue has been lost during the long hot summer. HB 1447 was only a small portion of the overall reforms that must happen, but at least it was movement. Now, as we are back in Springfield for this one-day session – the topic is being discussed but no action has been taken.
Pensioners and taxpayers have reasoned expectations that their duly elected officials will act, but leadership must start from the top – the Governor. Public confidence is waning. As the election season ramps up Illinoisans should expect more of the same… the recurring joke as the state continues to be one of the few in the nation to seriously address the pension issue. Our state deserves better!