Oops! Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has let the cat out of the bag by suggesting that the state might need a "federal guarantee" of its pension funds. The Illinois system is only 45% funded (actuaries recommend 80%), the most under-funded state plan in the entire United States. That's quite a distinction. Presently the shortfall is $82 billion. But, that is projected to rise to $139.8 billion by 2030. Illinois has for years failed to make actuarially recommended contributions to the fund. You can imagine where the money went instead. The state has borrowed several billion dollars over the past two years to make contributions to the fund. In sum, Illinois--one of the bluest, Democratic strongholds--has been criminally negligent in managing its fiscal affairs.
The Governor's office was quick to disavow the statement of incipient dependency made in a 472 page budget document, and says it was a mistake. A political mistake, they must mean. While Republican Governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere take heat for grappling with the problems of a spiraling debt burden and exploding deficits by trying to put their state's proverbial houses in order, Illinois' Democratic Governor revealed his party's plan for dealing with the same problems. Transfer them onto the back of the American taxpayer. Spreading the cost is the flip side of the spread-the-wealth coin. Heads Democrats win, tails responsible Americans lose.
Illinois may ask current state workers to pay more into the plan. But, it may not. It may try to apply "broader pension changes made this year for newly hired employees to current workers." But, It may not. (Unlike teachers in Wisconsin, in Illinois they already contribute as much as 9.4%.) Democratic Senate President John Cullerton released a legal memo this month arguing that the legislature--the people's representatives--cannot unilaterally alter state workers' pension benefits.
Who is working for whom, Noman wonders rhetorically? Surprisingly, the national electorate will need more media conditioning, Presidential speechmaking and political hectoring before it accepts the inevitability (and deeper compassion) of picking up the tab for Democratic profligacy in Illinois, California and everywhere that Democrats rule the roost. Noman doesn't doubt for a second that we'll be seeing Governor Quinn, and others, again.