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Illinois' Pensions System Saw One Important Change in 1989

04/03/2015 12:24 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2015

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The following is an excerpt from the pension history section of the General Assembly's 2015 report on the condition of Illinois' pension systems:

"Eventually, this debt's going to come due, folks. So, you know, realize that in this bill there are all kinds of windows that have been opened for all kinds of people... special situations that everybody around here has asked for. But the fact of the matter is, that doesn't cost much. What really costs the money is the 3 percent compounding. I have no objection to it, if you want to set aside a billion dollars to pay pension benefits, But if you don't, then maybe you'd better back off a little bit."
--State Sen. Calvin Schuneman (R-Prophetstown), June 30, 1989

It's been nearly 26 years since Sen. Calvin Schuneman (R-Prophetstown) tried to warn his colleagues in Springfield that what was being treated as an innocuous adjustment in public pension rules was a disaster waiting to happen.

On June 30, 1989, the Illinois Senate debated Senate Bill 95, a mammoth, "omnibus" pension bill that made more than 100 changes to the state pension code. For taxpayers, public employees and the five public pension systems controlled by state government, however, the bill made one change that, arguably, set the course for the pension crisis that plagues the state today.

(Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.)

Illinois State Rep. Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) has his own thoughts on the state's current pension system:

Illinois' budget troubles cannot be understated. The state's daunting $110 billion unfunded pension obligation severely limits the state's ability to meet its annual education, public safety, transportation, and Medicaid costs, and it heavily factors into its worst‐in‐the‐nation credit rating.

Illinois' pension payment next year is expected to rise to $8 billion. That means 25 percent of every state budget dollar will go to pensions. For comparison, the national average for state and local governments is less than 10 percent.

The state's financial future could be even more troubling if the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down the General Assembly's 2013 pension reform legislation. Many experts expect that to happen based on past rulings. A lower court in Sangamon County has already ruled the law unconstitutional.

(Read the rest of Morrison's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.)

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