Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently reflected on his biggest accomplishments during 2013: Pension reform and the same sex marriage act.
Excuse us, but we don't think the right question was asked: He should have been asked what the state's biggest needs were during 2013 and what he did to address them. Those answers would have given him a lot less on which to campaign in 2014.
Illinois' reputation as being hostile to business has neighboring states publicly exploiting the issue for their own gain. Hoosiers and Cheeseheads for Quinn?
As we lost businesses, we also lost jobs: 160,000 jobs vanished since 2007. The Great Recession is long over, but those jobs are still gone and unemployment here remains 1.7 percentage points higher than the national average.
The rate of people leaving the state was second only to New Jersey -- and we didn't get hammered by a hurricane.
And our state budget is still a mess. We currently owe about $5.5 billion in unpaid bills.
Which brings us back to pension reform. Quinn is proud of that, and even the Republicans think they saved $160 billion over the next 30 years.
That will be nice if it holds, but there's a big question mark hovering over Quinn's professed biggest accomplishment of 2013: the Illinois Constitution makes it pretty clear that pensions "shall not be diminished." It seems our state retirees have a pretty good chance of sinking the new law in court.
When that happens, the lawmakers who got us in this mess by underfunding pensions will saddle taxpayers with two burdens. The first will be the original pension debt. The second will be the cost of replacing the reform "savings" that Illinois justices are likely to say shouldn't have been cut in the first place.