ROCKFORD - The governor and top legislative leaders had hoped to
push through reforms with the help of legislators who are leaving office before
their replacements are sworn in Wednesday.
But that didn't happen; in fact some are calling what did happen today "a joke." That's because a vote for a deal never took place.
It's the same old story we've heard before, everyone agrees something needs to be done about pensions, but when it comes time to make a deal, no one can agree on anything.
"Huge disappointment, frustrated, it's just a disaster," said 69th District Representative Joe Sosnowski.
In the last year, Governor Pat Quinn set three different deadlines for lawmakers to craft and pass pension reform to try and tackle the current 96-billion dollar liability that has built up in the system. All three attempts have failed.
"If the general assembly doesn't act on pension reform, our economy suffers," said Quinn.
That's despite the governor and house speaker Michael Madigan's efforts to rally lawmakers in the last few days.
"We have to be bold, we have to do things that are difficult, we have to take on the challenge of our time," said Quinn. But legislators are on different pages.
"Lets start seeing where everybody's at," said Sosnowski. "Put them on the record."
But Madigan never put any of the reform bills on the floor for a vote, meaning at the earliest, lawmakers likely wont act on a bill until sometime this coming spring.
"The solution that's going to come down the road, is going to be a lot worse than the solution now," said 34th District Senator Dave Syverson.
Until a bill is passed, the state's pension deficit continues to grow 17 million dollars a day. Coupled with a mandatory pension payment of 7 billion dollars this year, the state won't likely have the money to fully fund education and healthcare, and might have to raise taxes.
"We have to look at tax increases just to cover [this] year's increase in liability," said Syverson.
Syverson says the solution is going to be painful and
that to many lawmakers and union leaders are not willing to give enough to help
fix the system.
"Unfortunately, many of
these leaders just don't want to do that," said Syverson.
But now the state is in a colossal mess. One of the reasons the state doesn't have enough money to fund the pension system is because in years past lawmakers have borrowed money from the state employee pension system to fund other programs.
But now that the state is broke and the credit rating is the worst in the nation, it's going to be harder and more expensive for the state to borrow money, and even harder to make a complete turn around.