COMMENTARY | The United States face a mounting debt crisis in 2013, creating uncertainty in all of our futures. Unfortunately the federal government is not alone in this debacle; Illinois faces an unfunded public pension liability that demands immediate action.
At the end of fiscal year 2012, Illinois faces a $96 billion deficit in unfunded pension obligation. That number is growing rapidly, up from $83 billion in FY2011. That rapid growth, in addition to the staggering dollar figure, is a major reason why Standard & Poor's Rating Service has downgraded the state's credit rating twice since August 2012. Illinois and California now share the dishonor of having the lowest state credit rating.
Compounding the issue is the Illinois state legislature's appalling lack of leadership in dealing with the crisis. In a state with a notorious reputation for corruption and political grid lock, the inability to even address the issue leads to a negative outlook. The 97th general assembly failed to even vote on a pension reform plan bill, despite a comprehensive bill that passed committee with bipartisan support and the governor had committed to signing into law. Instead, our elected leaders chose to pass the responsibility on to our newly elected leaders, hoping that they may be able to find a solution. Hope is not a strategy.
The 98th general assembly does not grant much optimism. In a state that has sent four former governors to prison for everything from soliciting bribes to fraud, Illinois voters elected three individuals currently facing felony criminal charges to the 98th assembly. Self-preservation may once again be the focus of our elected leaders, placing the interest of their constituents on the back burner.
As the pension-plan-reform can continues to be kicked down the road, Illinois citizens will continue to face rising costs and uncertain futures. Leadership and action with public interest in mind is required to address this crisis. Pension reform is demanded by creditors, and will continue to serve as an albatross for Illinois until reform occurs.
- Politics & Government