Monday, May 17, 2010

Pick your pension poison

When lawmakers return to Springfield to finish the budget later this month, they'll be greeted by the same major holdup that caused them to head home in frustration last week — how to make a nearly $4 billion state worker pension payment.

All of the options on the table remain unpalatable. They could borrow, but taxpayers would be stuck covering hundreds of millions in interest. They could skip, but the pension system would lose billions in investment. They could delay until after the election, but that only puts off the problem. Or they could cut the budget elsewhere, but that's unlikely given the size of the payment.

"The pension is a big chunk of the overall budget," said Christopher Mooney, a political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "That's why it's so attractive to get rid of it, to borrow, to not pay it. Suddenly, 'Wow, our budget situation looks much better.' But all those are stopgap measures; nothing that has come close to passing or even really being seriously considered is going to be a long-term fix."

Mooney's comments were featured in a May 15, 2010, article in the Chicago Tribune.

Download a PDF of the article