The Illinois General Assembly will soon begin its 2013 legislative session and the budgeting process for a new fiscal year. There will be many appeals to legislators, as there always are, to provide more needed funds for education, more needed funds for health care, more needed funds for the developmentally disabled, more needed funds for our state’s highways; and the list goes on and on.
And there is a simple answer to all of these appeals: the legislature cannot provide any additional funds to any area of state government, no matter how great the need may be, because we have to pay the pension bill.
For the coming fiscal year, it is reasonable to expect that the state of Illinois could receive $750 million to $800 million in new revenue above the current fiscal year thanks to positive economic activity. However, the state’s payment to the pension systems will increase by roughly $1 billion, from $5.1 billion to more than $6 billion. So, unless we reform the pension systems, it means that every penny of new revenue for the coming fiscal year will go to fund the state’s pensions systems. Nothing else — just to fund pensions.
There is understandable resistance to changes in the pension systems. But to once again do nothing, as the General Assembly has done for the past two years in the face of a mounting financial catastrophe, will deny proper funding to needed services. And it will condemn our great state to another year of stagnant backwater status as we watch the states around us enjoy the benefits of economic growth.
State Rep. David Harris
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