The state legislative session that ended Friday was an abject failure, one that demands a new approach to solving Illinois’ public pension crisis.
Lawmakers adjourned the spring session without coming to any agreement on a plan to reform the state’s pension systems, which are underfunded by almost $100 billion, a debt that grows by a staggering $17 million each day.
With pension obligations set to consume a fifth of all state revenues in the next year and the state’s credit rating already the lowest of the 50 states, pension reform was the top item on everyone’s agenda for the session. Still, nothing was accomplished.
The blame lies with lawmakers in general and with the state’s legislative leaders, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, in particular.
A pair of Chicago Democrats, Madigan and Cullerton could not reach an agreement among their own party members, even though they have comfortable majorities in both houses.
There are others to blame. If the state had a stronger leader in its highest office – governor – then pension reform already might be done.
Voters are to blame, too. How much longer will Illinois voters continue to elect and send inept leaders to Springfield? It’s clear the Pat Quinn-Madigan-Cullerton trio can’t govern effectively.
Given their failure, it is time for Madigan and Cullerton to step aside and allow others to become involved in crafting a workable compromise. More people need to be involved in this process – Republicans, Democrats, taxpayer advocates, even unions – to come up with a compromise solution that can extricate us from this crisis.
The status quo is untenable and benefitting almost no one in Illinois.
It is past time for a solution. Because Illinois has the lowest credit rating of the 50 states, state taxpayers spend more on interest payments than any other.
The ego-driven approach employed by Madigan and Cullerton this spring has yielded only more embarrassment and financial hardship for our state.