Illinois’ prolonged habit of kicking the can down the road when it comes to fully paying the government’s share into public workers’ retirement accounts – so that money could be used on other, more time-sensitive expenses – is one reason Illinois achieved the ignoble distinction of having the nation’s most underfunded pension systems.
The result, more than $130 billion in unfunded liabilities, is a crushing burden that now means Illinois has less to spend on government basics like education and health care as it’s left trying to play catch-up.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritkzer has been clear that, unlike his predecessor Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, he will not consider trying to reduce current workers’ future benefits in order to cut the state’s expenses. Nor will he stomach trying to amend the state constitution to remove a seemingly ironclad clause that says pension benefits cannot be diminished nor impaired, thereby giving the state more flexibility – an idea favored by certain fiscally conservative or business organizations.
But Pritkzer’s proposed solution is giving lawmakers, including those from his own party, stomachaches – even if they’re not eager to say so publicly.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky