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Our view: Sharing in the burden

While it amounts to just a tiny drop into a very deep bucket, we have to commend Illinois lawmakers who are giving up their state pensions.

Members of the General Assembly can participate in the state-subsidized pension system, which allows lawmakers to contribute 11.5 percent of their salary. Depending on length of service, those contributions can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension payments.

About two dozen General Assembly members have said they are forgoing participation in the state’s pension system. That includes Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, and Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-South Elgin.

We know McConnaughay already has a public pension from her 20 years in elected office in Kane County. But given the dismal reality of the state’s fiscal situation, it’s the type of symbolic gesture that lawmakers need to consider.

There are 177 members of the General Assembly. And hundreds more no longer in office are collecting pensions too. We get that they paid into the system, and don’t deny that everyone deserves a way to retire.

But in large part because of failings of past General Assemblies and governors, the state’s 12.8 million residents are on the hook for decades of fiscal mismanagement, which have resulted in a nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability and at least $8 billion in unpaid bills.

If lawmakers ever actually craft a solution to the financial quagmire, it’s going to require sacrifice by taxpayers.

Lawmakers have a rare opportunity to lead by example and start moving the state in the right direction by sharing in that burden.

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