Monday, July 1, 2013

Some numbers worth noting while Illinois engages in inaction on pensions

There’s a reason why our state government officials in Illinois are getting away with endless delays with regards to resolving the way pension programs overseen by the state are funded.

QUINN: Can he nudge with numbers?
Most of us are too clueless to comprehend what is truly going on here. We mouth out the same response that comedic actor Chevy Chase gave us while portraying former President Gerald Ford (“It was my understanding that there would be no math”) and let our eyes glaze over at the very thought.

THAT IS WHY deadlines for this issue to be addressed come up every year, and get ignored. It is why nothing happened on the issue this year (and no, I define action as a bill being passed by the Legislature and sent to the governor for consideration).

And it is why nothing will happen when the deadline Gov. Pat Quinn imposed for next week comes and goes.

Nothing except for endless commentaries that will be written by many (perhaps even myself) about how weak and ineffectual Quinn has appeared on this issue.

Although personally, I think this really is an issue for the Legislature at this point. Anybody who argues that the governor needs to take leadership on the issue is merely trying to excuse the fact that our legislators have shown too much comfort with the idea of doing nothing.

THAT IS THE reason that Quinn put out an interesting statement this weekend – one that tries to make the reality of the growing debt caused by inadequate funding for the pension programs seem like something real.

Or perhaps as something less likely to cause everybody’s eyes to glaze over!

Although I think he may have emphasized the wrong figure.

Is Chevy Chase impersonating Gerald R. Ford? Or all of our political people these days when it comes to avoiding financial figures?
As Quinn financial advisers put it, the state’s unfunded pension liability will grow by $5 million per day for the state fiscal year that begins Monday.

WHAT CAUGHT MY attention were a couple of figures located a little lower in his statement – in recent years, there has been something like $2 billion that could have been spent on various education programs, and another $3 billion in money for social service programs – that instead had to go toward paying the costs of the five pension programs that Illinois government oversees.

At a time when public education is struggling financially and many school districts are scraping and scratching for every dollar they can get – while having to accept the fact that the state (the alleged primary funding source) is NOT providing them with all the funding they are eligible for under the state aid formula – the fact that money could have been available IF ONLY our legislators had acted on this issue a few years ago.

That has to burn. It probably hurt more than the feeling all those Chicago Cubs fans experienced eight seasons ago when the White Sox managed a World Series victory while they got nothing.

Those $2 billion and $3 billion figures can only go up!

I CAN ONLY wish that this factor could sway the members of our General Assembly to act – rather than continue to sit around doing nothing because they presume everybody will be willing to blame the governor for this problem.

I’m not saying Pat Quinn is blameless. But a good chunk of what is wrong lies with our state Legislature.

Which makes me wonder if this is an issue that is all too much like immigration reform in Congress. I suspect many members of the Capitol Hill club aren’t going to concern themselves with it, until they see that their inaction will cost them significant numbers of Latino votes and send some of their members back home in defeat.

Perhaps when the people stop being eyes-glossed-over-with-numbers bored and become outraged at inaction is when our officials will finally get around to fixing up this mess.


No comments: