December 4, 2013 – Wheaton, Illinois – I voted for pension reform. I voted, in May, for SB 1, a bill described as imperfect, but a first step. I voted for and have introduced other smaller pension reform bills. I provided the dissenting argument for a pension holiday for the City of Chicago that would have allowed them to skip pension payments for 2 more years. I am also a co-sponsor on a pension reform bill that would truly reform our state’s pension system. During my time in office, this crisis has been the focus of my attention.
On November 20th, the Chicago Tribune called for leaders to GO BIG on pension reform because we cannot tax, borrow, or invest our way out of a debt this big. The editors included the following statement, “The legislative leaders need to come up with a solid, substantial, heavy-on-savings reform plan for the state’s pension funds. Then they need to use that as a template for the cities, school districts and other government agencies that face their own pension crises. All that debt is on the taxpayers. It grows and grows.”
Numerous reports have stated that Illinois’ budget is not fiscally sustainable; that Illinois is insolvent; that its budgetary challenges are daunting, and is among the worst states in the nation with regard to its fiscal condition; that our credit rating is the worst in the US. And, when Illinois goes to the market to borrow, we pay over three times more in interest costs than the next worst state.
This bill was not the solution. State funded pensions remain in jeopardy. We cannot continue to spend 20% of general revenue funds on public pensions – when most states spend only 5% – and remain an attractive place live and do business. Doing so will lead to tax increases or drastic cuts to services or both; businesses not locating or expanding here; and taxpayers fleeing to better economies.
Yesterday, legislators voted for marginal reforms that put retiree pensions in jeopardy, are unaffordable for taxpayers, and erode our ability to balance budgets fairly. We do need pension reform immediately, but not just any pension reform – and certainly not this brand of reform.
Under Illinois Democrats, the state’s fiscal security, free-market productivity, and ability to provide necessary services are in a freefall. I remain more committed than ever to advance policies that will bring Illinois back from the brink of insolvency and restore economic opportunity to the many good citizens of this state.
Since it was such an important vote, we are providing links to my questions and my statement on the House Floor.