The Madison County Record Jun. 8, 2013, 11:11am

Owing to the General Assembly’s inability to agree upon any program for reform of our public pension system, the state’s financial status has been downgraded.

Fitch Ratings cited Illinois’ long-term liabilities as the reason for the downgrade, singling out our $95 billion shortfall in pension plan payments.

$95 billion? That’s $95,000,000,000. Ninety-five with nine zeroes behind it! As Everett Dirksen supposedly said, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money."

Numbers like these are mind-boggling. You’d need days to count that high.

It helps to put a face on the figures. The face we put on them is the me-first mug of Gordon Maag.

Ex-Judge Gordon Maag should be the poster child for our looming state bankruptcy, because it’s self-absorbed, self-serving people like him whom have brought Illinois to the brink of financial disaster.

If the federal government doesn’t bail us out – and why should it – we’ll have to declare bankruptcy before the end of this decade.

What does Gordon Maag have to do with all this? Maag is appealing a recent court decision dismissing his challenge of the state law requiring him and other state retirees to begin paying their own premiums for health insurance.

The law is one of the few successful efforts the General Assembly has made to get Illinois’ finances under control. A state going bankrupt cannot continue to pay premiums for the health insurance of retired employees.

If Maag’s appeal succeeds, however, even this relatively timid first step in averting disaster will be undone.

Ordinary state employees once qualified for free health insurance after 20 years of service, judges after six, legislators after four. Some 80,000 state retirees now have to pay their own premiums, as well they should under current circumstances. If Maag gets his way, they’ll be feeding at the state trough once again and Illinois will go bankrupt that much sooner.

Thanks, Gordon. You’re a real stand-up guy.


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