First, admit Illinois needs fixing

July 12, 2014 

Recently we met with J. Tom Johnson, one of the authors of the new book "Fixing Illinois." Incredibly, he said that many state politicians objected to the title. They disagree that Illinois needs fixing.

It's hard to fathom that reaction. Illinois -- the state where $1 out of every $4 goes to paying retirement benefits and half its residents say they would move away if they could -- has a multitude of problems that need fixing. The problems increased dramatically recently when the state Supreme Court ruled that health insurance subsidies for retired state workers are guaranteed by the state Constitution. That ruling suggests that major pension reforms, enacted two years ago to reduce the pension funds' $100 billion deficit, will not withstand a court test, either.

Illinois needs leaders who can solve the problems that are threatening to destroy our state, not ones who have their heads in the sand. It needs leaders who feel shame at the mess that lawmakers and governors created when they approved excessive pension benefits for state workers then underfunded the system.

Voters might want to throw the bums out, but in most districts they can't; lawmakers drew the legislative district maps to ensure incumbents' re-election, yet another problem. However, House members could vote to remove Speaker Michael Madigan from his leadership role. He is most responsible for our broken state because he has controlled the House for decades.

As alcoholics know, the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. Removing Madigan would be a powerful acknowledgement that yes, Illinois needs fixing.

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