Senate President John Cullerton started the annual Veto Session with a grand proclamation by stating that Illinois pension debt is not a “crisis.”
More specifically, the Senate President said, “It's something we have to deal with, but it's not something that we're on the verge of bankruptcy on.”
Mr. President, I have one question for you – what planet are you living on? The state’s unfunded public pension liability is over $100 billion and growing with continued months of inaction. The state’s pension uncertainty plays into every aspect of our fiscal health and more importantly the Illinois economy.
If Illinois were a business, our suppliers would have quit, a bank would have sold off our mortgage and the county likely would have held a tax sale on our property. Illinois’ finances are the worst in the nation and Senate President Cullerton’s words do not add a serious tone to the discussion.
In fact, some developing nations have better bond rating than Illinois. Moody’s Investment Service rates Botswana with an “A2” rating – compared to Illinois’ “A3 negative outlook” rating. Those ratings are a direct influence on how much it costs the state to do business.
From where I sit, here at my desk in Peoria, Illinois on planet Earth – it is obvious we are teeter on the brink of bankruptcy or at least a bizarre version of it every day. Why would the Senate President make such an absurd statement to Chicago’s WGN radio? Illinois is home to the worst pension crisis, $8.5 billion backlog of bills and nation’s second highest unemployment rate at 9.2 percent.
The pension problem is not an easy one to solve. If there were a magic solution then legislation would have passed with 59-0 and 118-0 votes in the General Assembly and the Governor would have acted on it.
Also this week, Governor Pat Quinn was unusually silent on the pension funding issue. However, the Governor did manage to use a rare Capitol appearance to again tout his support for same-sex marriage.
Governor Quinn’s absence on the pension funding issue was also highlighted by the media as well. The Pensions Conference Committee has been meeting since June, and nine of its members said that the Governor has not been engaged in conversations for more than three months.
Illinoisans are tired of absurd statements and a Governor who does not provide direction on our state’s most pressing issues. We have to act immediately; the consequences of inaction are dire. The 220,000 constituents of the 37th Senate District are clamoring for real fiscal solutions that will allow Illinois to move forward.