We all have people in our lives from whom we take advice. Recently, while discussing the constitutionality of his 2013 pension law, Governor Quinn stated, “My father … told me, ‘Don’t take an aspirin until you get a headache.’ And I think that’s a very good rule to follow in life. You don’t exactly help your position before the court if you say, ‘Well I’ve got a ‘Plan B’ out here, maybe you could take that instead’ … That’s a very bad strategic position to take…”
Illinois doesn’t have a headache. Illinois is hemorrhaging. To be clear, it has been the governor’s “strategic positions” that have brought Illinois the highest unemployment rate in the country, and have placed Illinois in the top five when it comes to debt per capita ($25,959), debt in relation to state spending (727 percent) and unfunded pension liability ($254 billion).
No one is holding out much hope that Quinn’s non-strategy on pension reform will work. Case in point, Moody’s Investors Service has ranked Illinois’ unfunded pension liability as the worst in the nation.
The” strategic positions” of Pat Quinn, Mike Madigan, and their party have led the state into insolvency. The money required to sustain this system increasingly crowds out the funds for other state services, including Education and Medicaid. Illinois is hemorrhaging. So, how do we stop the bleeding?
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the legislature’s work on pension reform is not complete. Speaker Madigan admitted, on the House floor, that his pension plan would not end the pension crisis. The Speaker’s strategy to implement marginal reforms at a high cost to taxpayers was never enough. But, that’s just part of the problem with Quinn’s “non-strategy.”
The other part of the problem is the horrible sense that there is no plan, no discernment, no organization, no seat at the table for those who have figured out that funding the nation’s worst pension liability requires reforms that upset entrenched interests; and that there is no real interest in preventing Illinois’ economy from completely disintegrating from those in control of state government.
Taxpayers need to be secure in the knowledge that any ‘Plan A’ lawmakers champion is a strategy that will protect the dreams they have for their families and businesses; that maximizes good and minimizes harm. Likewise, the lawmakers in Springfield ought to take into consideration the fact that taxpayers across the state are hard at work developing their own “Plan B’ – leaving the state and taking their taxable income with them – as a result of their “strategic positions” on pensions, budget, and tax policy.
As Dan Proft frequently points out, Illinois families are fleeing this state for other states that offer a better quality of life at a lower cost.
To date, the political establishment’s approach has been to rhetorically minimize the threat to Illinoisans’ financial future, as if their words have the power to cover up an increasingly palpable economic crisis. Political leadership is needed now, more than ever. Grassroots advocacy is needed now, more than ever.
The proven pension reforms advocated by The Illinois Opportunity Project – as well as major policy think tanks – work. States such as Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Indiana are thriving as a result of transitioning to a define contribution, 401(k)-style retirement plan for state workers. There’s no reason Illinois couldn’t do the same. In one legislative session, we could implement the reforms that would turn Illinois around.
Let’s drive policy reform that works NOW. Move people in numbers to the voting booth.
Victory is within our reach, but it is up to us: go door-to-door, make phone calls, talk to friends and family about the policies that will turn Illinois around, as well as the candidates who will implement those policies.
Lend your voice to a policy revolution in Illinois. Click here to give Pat Quinn and state legislators some good advice on pension reform. Let them know that leaders who base their “strategic positions” on the state’s fiscal realities – as opposed to antiquated advice – and who have the political courage to implement substantial policy reforms are the ones who will return opportunity to Illinois.