This is a paean to my home state, where the cold weather reminds us that we are alive, the sports teams remind us that life is full of Sisyphean struggles, and the state government reminds us that we are oh-so-screwed:
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, already the most unpopular governor in the nation, has his work cut out for him at his annual “state of the state” speech on Wednesday - and this time he probably won’t be relying on a python named “Squeezy.”
At the same time, teachers in Chicago’s wealthy suburbs are retiring with six-figure salaries set by school districts on which pensions are calculated, and the state pays the bill. The benefits cannot be reduced, according to the state constitution.
Illinois’pension systems are in the worst financial shape of any state at 39 percent funded when no less than 80 percent is considered healthy.State pensions are in the hole by the staggering amount of nearly $97 billion, or $20,000 per Illinois household and nearly four times the annual state revenue.
It is this increasingly nightmarish financial mess that the Democratic governor has to address in his speech to the legislature in Springfield on Wednesday.
Quinn was widely lampooned in November when he held a press conference to unveil a cartoon python called “Squeezy” in an attempt to illustrate how pension costs are squeezing funding for education and other core services.
Despite the mockery, everybody agrees the problem is serious.
“This is a horribly embarrassing situation for the citizens of Illinois that their legislature said stabilizing pensions is a top priority yet nothing comprehensive has been done in over a year,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a non-partisan research group backed by Chicago business.
(Via the Transom.) I used to think that the reason why so many Illinois governors go to jail is that they are corrupt. I now think that the reason why so many Illinois governors go to jail is that they want to escape the consequences of their own policy decisions.