The Daily Herald's Nov. 25 article "Pension relief for suburbs?" is timely as the Illinois General Assembly has returned to Springfield to address public pension reform during the legislative veto session.
On behalf of the region's business community, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce urges Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers to act now to fix the state's $98 billion unfunded pension liability, which costs taxpayers almost $7 billion per year and consumes over 20 percent of the state's total annual budget.
The business community can no longer tolerate procrastination on this critical issue. Unfunded pensions will fiscally cripple Illinois, and the repercussions are most severe for local governments. If the pension crisis is not addressed, taxes would be raised and basic government services such as healthcare, education and public safety would have to be cut. Employers require safe neighborhoods, quality schools, reliable transportation systems and competitive property and sales tax rates to retain and create jobs. The pension crisis threatens all of these things and more.
Illinois has arrived at critical crossroads, and our economic future is at risk. Hard decisions must be made, and there must be alignment of accountability between units of government negotiating worker benefits and those responsible for paying for them. Therefore, the Chicagoland Chamber urges collaboration between state leaders and local governments to achieve comprehensive pension reform, protecting taxpayers and making Illinois a competitive place to do business once again. Our elected leaders are ultimately responsible for addressing tough issues that threaten our fiscal standing. We know that meaningful change doesn't come easy, but we trust and hope that our leaders in Springfield will be honest and forthright about the current challenge.
John A. Carpenter
Executive Vice President CEO
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce