July 31, 2014
Illinois legislators, don’t prove the doubters right.
The doubters believe Illinois’ lawmakers are unwilling and unable to cut public employee pension costs in any meaningful way. Not in this lifetime, anyway.
We believe otherwise.
The issue of the state’s gargantuan, $100 billion unfunded pension liability has been on the agenda for years as pension payments have begun crowding out spending on just about everything else. Every legislator knows this well and is feeling intense pressure to do something about it.
They’ve come close to passing pension reform before and, this summer, at Gov. Pat Quinn’s request, they convened a small, high-level group of legislators to hammer out a plan.
The goal, at the very latest, was to craft a bill by Tuesday, opening day of the fall veto session.
That’s not happening.
But given the depth of this problem, coupled with the widespread outrage among average citizens, lawmakers know their political lives depend on reducing pension costs. The public expects action — and if it’s not next week, then the second week of the fall session, which starts Nov. 5, is the new and final deadline.
This pressure is new in Illinois, and a desperately needed change. It means election time, which is just around the corner, will be for many legislators a referendum on pension reform. And more often than not, failure to act will result in lost votes.
The pension committee members are close to a deal but have asked the four legislative leaders to help them over the goal line. That gives us pause, as leader-led efforts at reform have so far failed to produce results. The onus is on the members of the pension committee to compromise on the final, small hurdles they must surmount. The onus is on the rank-and-file legislators to demand an ambitious cost-cutting package that solves Illinois’ pension problem once and for all.
No more fake solutions. No more delays.
We believe Illinois’ legislators can get this done.
Don’t prove us wrong.