Pension funding worst in the country

The Madison County Record Feb. 28, 2010, 7:45am

To the editor:

This past week the world-renowned Pew Foundation issued a report putting an end to any question about the Illinois Pension System deficit problem and its impact on the future. It must be mortifying to the citizens to hear Illinois ranked last among all states in setting aside the dollars needed to pay retired public employee pensions. According to the Pew report, Illinois has set aside just 54 percent of the amount needed to pay retiree benefits, leaving a substantial hole to fill ($78 Billion).

Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn says he understands the problem, and wants to increase taxes and make changes to retirement benefits. Quinn has suggested changing the retirement age to 67. Currently, Illinois public employees can retire as early as age 55. I am not sure this is the right plan, but bold action will be required by your next state representative to address this issue.

Last year, 15 states reformed public pension systems. The changes found to be effective and reasonable included sharing investment options with employees; cutting benefits, increasing retirement ages and having employees pay more into the system.

These changes all are needed, according to financial experts, for the solvency of the current pension system and to ensure that future public retirees do not lose benefits. The state cannot break the promises it has made to its employees and retirees.

Due to a clear lack of leadership and unsound fiscal management by your current state representative, two things are certain with the growing pension bill coming due: Citizens will pay much higher taxes and fees, and less money will be available for schools, roads and medical care.

Legislators cannot delay any longer. Action must be taken, and taken now, for the sake of your children and grandchildren.

Common sense approaches are necessary to deal with Illinois' pension problem, which include making annual payments for pensions at levels recommended by the state's actuaries; stopping the expansion of pension benefits and the offering of cost-of-living increases, without having the money to pay for them, and setting aside money to pay for public retiree health plans.

It is simple. The State must live within its means, just as you and I are required to do. Illinois citizens should benefit from my suggestions for a common sense approach to the Illinois pension problem. You elect state representatives to protect your welfare and spend your tax dollars wisely.

Your current local representative has failed on both accounts.

Dwight Kay
Republican candidate
112th State House District

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