With the swearing in of Illinois’ General Assembly, I looked back at Illinois’s highest 2012 legislative priority. Pension reform trumped all other issues. The state’s current five retirement systems are unsustainable and adversely impacting the funding of all other state programs including a plethora of social services as well as education.
So what did our legislators do over the past year? Nothing.
While global economic forces in the private sector dictated a U.S. shift in employee retirement plans since the mid-1980s, Springfield continued to tread water. Last January Alan Greenspan noted in the Financial Times that assets of private defined benefit plans fell from 67 percent of private sector employee retirement plans in 1984 to 37 percent at the end of the third quarter of 2011. The long-term solution for businesses was to shift employee retirement plans to defined contribution programs.
Our Illinois legislators have a fiduciary duty to trim their public sector employee retirement plans. A $96 billion pension debt dictates the public sector also change. Just like union resistance was overcome by businesses, so too must elected officials overcome union objections. Decades of politicians acquiescing to union demands for rich retirement benefits isn’t sustainable. taxpayers and union members need to let their representatives know that the time has come for a shift in future retirement benefits.
Illinois can no longer afford to impede economic growth by raising taxes and fostering decline like we see in the nanny governments of Europe. “Wait until next year” is what the old guard of Springfield effectively said as they let another General Assembly adjourn. Unlike loyal Cub fans, taxpayers can no longer wait. Perhaps the governor should help legislators focus on the state’s highest priority: Put a hold on payment of all state legislators until a pension reform bill is on his desk.
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