of a genuine crisis. If the Illinois pension
funds don’t meet the definition of a crisis,
it is hard to imagine a situation that does.
Finally, the Illinois Constitution
mandates that the state fund public
education, as well as provide for the
health and welfare of its citizens.
These priorities are being crowded
out by the growing pension debt.
Other Endangered Programs
Any pension solution proposal cannot
be viewed in isolation. The crisis
impacts not only those paying into the
system or receiving pension benefits,
but also every other program funded
by state government in Illinois.
Elaine Nekritz is serving her sixth term in the Illinois
House of Representatives. Her district includes
portions of several north and northwest Cook County
suburbs. Nekritz, an assistant majority leader, serves
as chair of the House Personnel and Pensions
Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.
She has served as the House Democrats’ appointee
to a number of pension study groups, including the
2012 Governor’s Pension Working Group. She is a
graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
In the budget under which Illinois
is currently operating, the pension
payment increased $900 million,
while anticipated new revenues only
amounted to $650 million. In the budget
to be negotiated during the Spring
session, legislators already know that
the pension payment will increase
$1 billion, while anticipating that new
revenues will be about $750 million.
The General Assembly has made
significant cuts in other areas of the
state’s budget. Illinois lawmakers cut
$1.6 billion from programs that provide
health care for the poor, for example.
The state has closed prisons, mental
health facilities, and institutions
that serve the developmentally
disabled. Education funding has been
decreased, with the greatest impact
falling on districts with the least
ability to raise local property taxes.
The citizens of the state are also
contributing more through a tax
increase that was passed in 2011.
Almost all of the new revenues generated
from that increase are being used to
pay the state’s pension obligations.
The solution to Illinois’ pension woes
will require great sacrifice from taxpayers
and those who rely on funding from the
state budget. It will also require sacrifices
by those who rely on the state pensions
for their retirement security. Sacrifice
is what is necessary to get through
this crisis and stabilize the state’s fiscal
situation for the short and long runs. J
5th Annual TMA Western Regional Conference
July 17-19, 2013
Hosted by the Arizona, Northern California, Rocky Mountain, and Southern
California Chapters, the 5th Annual TMA Western Regional Conference explores
the next wave of turnarounds and offers seemingly endless networking and education
opportunities, including a Golf Tournament, Whale Watching excursion, Judges
Roundtable, a full schedule of panel sessions, and a keynote presentation by Gregory
Zuckerman, special writer for The Wall Street Journal and New York Times best-selling author.