The Land of Mary Todd Lincoln Spending: Illinois unfunded pension debt reaches new record

Mary Todd Lincoln mannequin at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

By John Ruberry

Illinois reached a new millstone recently–its unfunded pension debt is wallowing at a record $133.5 billion, despite a massive 2017 income tax hike and a booming stock market. In 2008 that debt was only $54.8 billion. And now 25 percent of the state budget is allocated to pensions.

Do you live in Illinois? Have you visited here? Have you noticed more potholes on the roads?

The Land of Lincoln is now the Land of Mary Todd Lincoln Spending

Do you enjoy bad news? Then join me in Illinois or at least add the state to your online news feed. 

Here is some more negativity for you: Illinois’ spendthrift new governor, JB Pritzker, who as I reported here last week is under federal investigation, wants to cut payments into the state’s four pension plans for a few years so Illinois can catch up later. Even though Pritzker and his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly–where the party enjoys supermajorities–are planning another income tax hike by switching Illinois from a flat tax rate state to one with graduated rates. 

Shorting pension plan payments and pension contribution “holidays” are one of the reasons Illinois finds itself in such a mess. 

Can I find more gloomy reports for you? In Illinois the worst is always possible, if not inevitable. The state’s largest city, Chicago, manages–or better-phrased mismanges–the worst-funded big city pension plans. Hundreds of smaller communities have dug their own bottomless retirement plan holes too

As I’ve mentioned at Da Tech Guy many times, Illinois has been losing residents for five straight years. And you can’t blame the weather. All of the states bordering Illinois are growing. 

Of course in Illinois it is the pension debt that is growing. And its godfather is Boss Michael Madigan of Chicago, the chairman of the state Democratic Party and the speaker of the state House for 34 of the last 36 years. He remains the most powerful Democrat in the state, yes, even more so than Pritzker.

Decline and fall.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.