If you think that Illinois' pension crisis doesn't really concern you because you're not a teacher or a state employee, think again. The "Illinois effect" from that $96 billion pension shortfall affects everyone in the state.
Municipalities, even with stellar credit ratings, are having to pay a surcharge to borrow money because Illinois' terrible reputation in the financial world is tarnishing them.
Elementary and secondary schools are struggling with everything from classroom offerings to transportation because the state has cut back promised funding. About 18,000 college students with need-based scholarships had their money cut off. DuPage and Kane counties just merged their juvenile detention facilities.
These are just three examples of how the ballooning pension debt is squeezing out other state programs. In fiscal 2008, pensions consumed 6 percent of the state budget; when the new fiscal year starts in July, that percentage is expected to increase to 16 percent unless something is done.
Some lawmakers opposed a pension reform deal because it would have shifted costs to the local school districts and potentially increased property taxes. Well, property taxes may increase in some districts anyway to make up for all the state cutbacks.
Illinois lawmakers converge on Springfield at the end of the month. The previous assembly said it was urgent to reform pensions yet lawmakers did nothing. Are things going to have to get worse than they already are to get them to act?