No transparency: Illinois pension “fix” betrays larger problem in state

illinois signBy John Ruberry

On the day before Thanksgiving word trickled out that the bipartisan legislative committee that has been working since June on a fix for Illinois’ worst-funded-in-the-nation public pension system has finally completed their work.

Except only the insiders knew the details of the plan to erase the $100 billion pension deficit.

The outline of the fix became public when member of the General Assembly were briefed on the bill on Black Friday–they have two more days to decide how to vote.  According to AP, the pension system will be fully-funded in 2044.

I said briefed. Where is the bill?

The Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank,  is suspicious of the fix and wants to know more:

From CBS Chicago:

“No legislation has been released. No financial analyses have been released,” CEO John Tillman said. “But of the details that have been shared, it is clear this ‘deal’ will not solve Illinois’ $100 billion pension crisis. In fact, it will make it worse.”

That’s the way things are done in Illinois.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner blasted the pension deal in a statement released yesterday.

In the early 1990’s, Senate President John Cullerton [a Chicago Democrat] was on a committee of 10 legislators who inserted language into a pension bill that allowed 23 government union bosses to collect an extra $56 million from municipal pension funds. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the changes became law with no public debate among state legislators, and, more importantly, no cost analysis.”

Sound familiar?

A few years ago, the legislature approved a workers compensation law that was highly touted for its bipartisan “reforms.” Despite the acclaim it received at the time, in the end it accomplished very little. Illinois’ workers compensation system remains uncompetitive with neighboring states and our economy continues to suffer.

The Democrats enjoy super-majorities in the General Assembly. How did that happen?

This will sound familiar too.

Here  is what NBC 5 Chicago’s Ward Room blog had to say about the decennial remap in 2011:

And as the legislators’ deadline draws near, still others are upset at the brief window for public input. Public hearings were held Saturday and Sunday.

Illinois House Minority leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) called it “disingenuous” for House Democrats to release their plans just two days before a public hearing on the matter.

Prairie State residents suffer under the second-highest unemployment rate in the Midwest. Illinois has a backlog of $8 billion in unpaid bills. The Land of Lincoln’s credit rating is the lowest in the union. 

With more transparency, things could only improve in America’s fifth most-populous state.