The headline on the front page of the Daily Herald on Aug. 18, in bold print, read: "Pension talks do nothing."
Despite positive reports and hype to the contrary, lawmakers failed to come up with a measure to rein in public employee pension costs even as they were called to Springfield for a special legislative session by Gov. Quin on Aug. 17, under the guise of striking an agreement to overhaul Illinois' five retirement systems.
The House, however, did find time to expel indicted legislator, Rep Derrick Smith, with a vote of 100-6. Even so, Rep. Smith could be re-elected in November and sworn in again in January.
Telling is that Quinn's proposal (HB1447) to cut pension benefits for teachers, university employees and state workers wasn't even publicly considered during the single daylong session, which speaks volumes about Quinn's leadership deficit.
One measure introduced might have been more appropriate for an April Fool's Day prank. It would have cut lawmakers' pension benefits, then eliminated pensions for new lawmakers starting in the summer of 2013. The projected savings: $111 million by 2045, or one tenth of one percent of the state's overall retirement debt, is an amount even too minuscule to call a start.
Although the estimate of pension debt is often listed as $83 billion, Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, has done the math and has concluded that Illinois legislators must actually address a total shortfall of $203 billion. That's $41,000 per household.
In one sense. failure to act by legislators amounts to gross dereliction, but lack of leadership by Gov. Quinn must also be factored in, for like a rudderless ship, both spell disaster and catastrophic failure.
Nancy J. Thorner
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