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Budget expert says cutting benefits won't fix pension mess

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 04:27:59 CDT

     Illinois legislators have so far failed to pass legislation that will solve the state's pension dilemma. A budget expert says none of the proposals they've debated would work anyway.     Ralph Martire, with the Center for Tax and Budget AccountabilityTo even characterize the problem as a pension one is a misnomer.   He says it's a debt crisis. While it's true that by conservative estimates, Illinois is short 83 billion dollars in what it has promised state employees in retirement benefits, Martire says there's nothing inherently wrong with the state's pension plans. He says the problem is for 40 years the state "borrowed like a credit card" from pensions to pay for other services. Martire says that's what left Illinois with the $83 billion dollar debt.   State law requires Illinois spend more every year to pay that down. He says that means even if Illinois were to reduce its pension costs, say by cutting benefits, there would still be a fiscal crisis:

"The main driver of the problem is in fact this pension ramp but getting a politically motivated General Assembly to deal with that reality is complex at best."

And politically impossible at its worst.

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