Pension reform corkscrews into the ground
I come from Democratic stock — no surprise to regular readers — and generally cast my votes for Democratic candidates, but it’s difficult to defend the party’s work here in Illinois after this last, dreadful legislative session in which a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic governor failed to do anything to address our worst-in-the-nation pension crisis.
I doubt I’ll ever switch parties, but if the GOP could put forth some brave, fiscally responsible candidates for statewide office who aren’t also staunch social conservatives determined to battle abortion, gay rights and public education I could easily be persuaded to vote for change. Because what we have now ain’t working.
By the way, if you want a clear, excellent summary of the state’s pension crisis — its history and its depth — read Long odds for major Illinois pension fix by my colleagues Jason Grotto, Ray Long and Hal Dardick. Here’s a key passage:
The city also has consistently failed to contribute enough to adequately cover pensions for its employees, leading to a large debt.
Take Chicago’s police pension fund. For decades, the city paid a percentage of the department’s payroll rather than an amount determined by an actuary to keep the fund solvent. Under that structure, the city contributed about $174 million to the police fund in 2011. The true costs of the benefits, however, were $403 million, more than double what the city paid, according to the pension plan’s financial reports.
That imbalance has been the main thing driving the police plan from being 99 percent funded in 2000 to just 35 percent in 2011. The debt, meanwhile, tripled during the past decade to $6.2 billion.