Letters to the Editor

Letter: The elephant in the room

Published:

To the Editor:

For those of you who don’t know what the title of this letter means, it refers to a problem that everyone knows to exist, but refuses to address.

In the case of a family, that could be an alcoholic aunt or a sibling with a gambling addiction. In the clan of Illinois state legislators, whether they be incumbent or those aspiring to office, that behemoth is the state’s pension debt, all $200 billion of it. That’s a 2 followed by 11 zeros, or, by my calculations, more than $16,000 for every man, woman and child in the state. 

All of those seeking office have great plans for education, social services, infrastructure, etc., yet seem unaware the pension debt is eating up those funds with which they would pay for those improvements. The recent Illinois income tax increase likely will all go toward the state’s payments to pension recipients. If we were a business, we’d be long gone, bankrupt, forgotten about. Because a state cannot file bankruptcy, we continue to exist, the debt mounting exponentially as recipients enjoy their cost-of-living adjustment of 3 percent per annum. 

So what can be done about it? I suppose we could wait for the federal government to change their laws, allowing an insolvent state to declare bankruptcy. Or we could do as Mike Madigan and others have proposed, transferring that debt back to the municipalities from whence it originated, property taxes soaring even higher. Never mind that the state received all the funds from the taxpayers and chose to spend it elsewhere.

There’s only one solution to the problem, and that doesn’t include continuing to pay those already receiving benefits of which they are undeserving as we move forward. The state constitution must be amended, removing the language which states those benefits may not be diminished or impaired. Ask those running for office whether they intend to receive a pension for their part-time job, and what they intend to do about the pension debt. Then watch them squirm as they niftily skirt the issue, that’s likely the only honest reply you’ll receive.

Douglas Knight

Prairie Grove