It’s pretty hard to come up with solutions when you don’t know the problem.
In a letter to Reboot Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn said:
“We now face a $96 billion unfunded [pension] liability, and it grows by $17.1 million a day. Our 2013 pension payment - $5.1 billion – is triple what our pension payments were just five years ago and constitutes a whopping 15 percent of our general revenue fund spending. Illinois is on track to spend more on pensions than education by 2016!”
Huh? What kind of math are they using in the governor’s office?
According to a report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, here’s how much the various pension systems are set to receive for fiscal year 2013:
Teachers’ Retirement System: $2,703,478,000
State Universities Retirement System: $1,402,800,000
State Employees’ Retirement System: $1,659,576,000
Judges’ Retirement System: $88,210,000
General Assembly Retirement System: $14,150,000
That adds up to: $5,868,214,000. Just for 2013 pension payments.
The governor misstated the size of the state’s contribution for pensions by almost $800 million.
To quote the late, great Illinois statesman Everett Dirksen: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
Next year’s payment is projected to be more than $6 billion.
Snake In Our Future
As you no doubt know by now, Gov. Pat Quinn has inaugurated Squeezy the Python as the mascot for the state’s ongoing pension crisis.
Yes, the cartoon reptile is juvenile.
And yes, it bears a suspiciously similar appearance to the snake in Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”
And no, it doesn’t convey a single concrete solution for the state’s pension predicament.
But upon watching the python’s video debut, I could only think of something Ross Perot once said: “If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes. “
Honest Abe And The Lame Ducks
I took my wife, Joan, out to see “Lincoln” in the theater Saturday night. Joan, who is the least political person I know, thoroughly enjoyed it. I did, as well.
The theme of the movie is President Abraham Lincoln pushing a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery through a lame duck congress by doling out patronage jobs to defeated congressmen who otherwise would oppose abolition.
I couldn’t help but think of the last lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly when our income taxes were jacked up 67 percent.
Good things just kept happening to lame duck lawmakers who voted for the tax hike backed by Democratic leaders. Many got jobs working in the Quinn administration. Here are a few:
Former state Rep. Bob Flider is now director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. The job pays $133,273.
Former state Rep. Careen Gordon was first nominated for the state parole board, but after state senators said they would not confirm her, the Quinn administration found a spot for her as a lawyer handling real estate licensing. The job pays $84,000.
Former state Rep. Mike Smith snagged a job with the Education Labor Relations Board. It pays $93,926.
In fact, of the 12 lame duck legislators who voted for the tax increase last year, at least six ended up with state jobs.
Some folks are quite qualified for the jobs they have. But still, the deal looks as crooked as a dog’s hind leg – and twice as dirty.
Lincoln, at least, had a noble cause.
By the way, did I mention that next week another lame duck session begins?
Scott Reeder is the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.