Pensions Threaten to Bankrupt Illinois

By Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune - May 27, 2011

Every member of the Illinois General Assembly should have been in the room to see House Speaker Michael Madigan and his counterpart, Minority Leader Tom Cross, seated side by side Thursday morning. Their bipartisan message to a House committee weighing pension reforms that the Democratic and Republican leaders co-sponsor: We have to repair public pension systems in order to preserve them for public employees — of Illinois, of Chicago, of Cook County, of school districts statewide.

Cross framed the issue in a way every legislator should explain to the public employees who are pressuring them to oppose reform: Under this bill, taxpayers alone absorb the $85 billion by which the state pension system currently is underfunded. But this huge liability for citizens and employers can't continue to grow unchecked. Going forward, lawmakers need to behave as if they were enacting a new pension system. What would those pension benefits cost? And how would taxpayers and employees — together — pay for them?

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