The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 8, 2013

Pension deal might be close

The Commercial-News

---- — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn spoke last week about a proposed plan to erase the state’s estimated $100 billion unfunded pension liability. Remember the pension problem? Months ago, it was so severe Quinn set a deadline for lawmakers to resolve it — which they promptly ignored.

Then Quinn said lawmakers would receive no pay until a solution had been reached — but the courts ruled they should be paid.

So now it appears there might be a viable plan in the works to fix the problem, much to the relief of Vermilion County area residents who depend of those state pensions for retirement income. Some, such as teachers, receive no Social Security, so the pension issue holds significant interest for them.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton endorsed a plan that would yield $1.38 billion in pension savings. It reduces the cost of living adjustment from 3 percent to half the rate of inflation — which means those receiving pension checks would receive less. But it also reduces the amount employees must pay in by 1 percent. So there are benefits to both sides.

The whole to the success of any pension reform plan lies with the General Assembly. Its members carry the blame for the mess in the first place. During a number of years, lawmakers failed to fulfill the promises they made to workers regarding the pension. Either state payments were skipped altogether, or the money went to other projects. This whole debacle could have been avoided had lawmakers imply done what they said they would do.

Whatever plan finally takes shape — lawmakers could vote as early as this month’s veto session on a solution — it should include iron-clad, mandatory state payments into the fund to prevent this kind of financial mess from forming in the future. Without that, future legislators once again could raid the fund for their own uses.