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posted: 11/14/2013 2:09 PM

When a fix isn't really a fix

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Having the worst-funded pension system in the nation ($100 billion and rising), with only 39 cents in assets to every $1 of obligation, and with pension reform growing the debt daily by $5 million, without doubt the Illinois' skyrocketing pension costs are squeezing out core services like education, public safety and health care.

If the above isn't enough to give credence to the oft-heard prediction that Chicago is on the road to becoming another Detroit, consider also that by the end of the year, Illinois will have a stack of $9 billion in unpaid bills, a credit rating that is worst in the nation, with the average Illinois household on the hook for $42,000 in pension debt.

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Does the majority party really accept the premise that there is a pension crisis that needs to be solved to make Illinois solvent? Certainly the Chicago Park District pension reform enacted in the House during the recent veto session inspired little confidence. It is bad for both taxpayers and workers.

In contrast to the five underwater state pension funds where state money is involved and which together make up the $100 billion in pension liability, the park district pension is a local pension, no state money is involved, and its pension liability was addressed when individuals responsible for the operation of the CPD's pension fund approached the General Assembly with their plan to restore fiscal solvency.

Remaining stuck in the House and Senate are two competing reform proposals by Democratic leaders Madigan and Cullerton respectively. As both are not up to the task of tackling pension reform, hopefully HB 3303 will finally be given the attention it deserves as the only sensible way to fix Illinois' pension crisis by getting state politicians out of the pension business and moving them to a private sector-modeled 401(k)-style retirement plan for all future work.

Nancy J. Thorner

Lake Bluff

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