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Illinois Pension Crisis Subject Of New 'Grassroots' Campaign, Ridiculous Video

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Squeezy, Illinois' new public pension mascot-slash-villain, in action.
Squeezy, Illinois' new public pension mascot-slash-villain, in action.

As Illinois' pile of unpaid bills continues to mount, Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday introduced the "grassroots" campaign he hopes will help build support for reform of the state's public pension fund.

At the center of the campaign is a somewhat bizarre, nearly four-minute video titled "The Pension Squeeze" which uses a villainous giant cartoon snake named "Squeezy the Pension Python" to illustrate the issue at hand.

The campaign's website -- located at ThisIsMyIllinois.com -- relies on a simply-designed template to attempt to communicate the history of public pensions and how the state of Illinois' $83 billion unfunded pension liability has grown, according to some, beyond the point of being fixable.

The website was criticized in the Chicago Tribune as "an incomplete online strategy." In his Sunday introduction of the campaign, the governor did not offer solutions to the pension crisis, but he urged families to "speak to each other" about pension funding at the Thanksgiving dinner table this Thursday.

One state lawmaker, Rep. Jack Franks, called the strategy "juvenile," according to the Tribune.

In a statement, the governor called the pension funding crisis the "most urgent challenge of the decade" and urged the state legislature to take action.

"If the General Assembly passes comprehensive reform, we will ease the squeeze on essential services, restore fiscal stability to our state and protect the future of the next generation," Gov. Quinn said. "Illinois' children have a message for us: Thanks in advance for rising above politics and getting the job done."

Illinois is home to the nation's largest budget deficit, largely thanks to ballooning pension costs. The state has the lowest rate of pension funding nationwide and, like California, also has one of the lowest debt ratings of any state.

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