Last year, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed Squeezy, the Pension Python, as the perfect symbol for Illinois’ festering public pension crisis.
With the Legislature’s continuing inability to solve the pension woes, we propose a new symbol: the scaredy-cat.
It isn’t even Halloween yet, but state legislators certainly appear scared to do anything about the $100 billion unfunded pension deficit. It’s a frightening problem that sucks billions of General Fund dollars away from paying bills, educating students, operating facilities and providing social services.
A bipartisan committee has studied pension reform for months. Some Illinoisans expressed the hope that, during last week’s veto session of the General Assembly, a proposed solution would be brought before lawmakers for their consideration.
Nothing happened on pension reform Tuesday.
Nothing happened Wednesday.
Both the House and Senate canceled Thursday’s sessions. They don’t plan to meet again until a three-day session in November. After that, wait until next year.
An Associated Press story from last week carried a telling sentence:
“... [A] looming deadline for opponents to challenge sitting lawmakers in next year’s elections is among several reasons those issues [pension reform, gay marriage] could be pushed off once again.”
Some lawmakers, afraid of making potentially unpopular political decisions on pension reform, appear to be in no hurry to address it.
An unpopular decision, of course, can be used in a campaign to unseat a lawmaker. And who wants to lose a job, especially in a high-unemployment state such as Illinois?
With no end in sight for the pension crisis, we are fearful for the state’s future. The longer the pension crisis is ignored, the deeper in debt Illinois tumbles.
Lawmakers were elected to courageously solve problems, not cower before them.
By failing to act, scaredy-cat lawmakers aren’t doing themselves – or the state – any favors.
On Election Day, voters need to grab a broom and shoo those scaredy-cats away.