Illinois Policy Institute: Raising taxes will not fix a broken system

By The Madison County Record | May 8, 2015

To the Editor:

Today the Illinois Supreme Court struck down Senate Bill 1, the pension-reform law enacted in 2013 by former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois’ political elite have devised a pension scheme that is excessive, bloated, corrupted and was never affordable for Illinois taxpayers. While SB 1 did not solve the pension crisis, the legislation at least took a first step toward achieving parity between government workers who receive pensions and the taxpayers who fund them.

But with today’s ruling, Illinois' high court says that state government’s No. 1 financial responsibility is paying for the retirements of people who no longer work for state government. Pension costs are first in line, ahead of funding for public safety, education, helping the poor and disadvantaged, and all core services provided by state government.

The court’s ruling suggested that raising taxes is a way to pay for pensions. Raising taxes will not fix a broken system. The pension system is beyond repair, and there will never be enough money to fund it. Case in point: The 2011 tax increase. That tax increase generated more than $31 billion, and 90 cents out of every tax-hike dollar collected went to pensions. Yet it still was not enough to make the pension system whole.

Ultimately, the only way Illinois can break the cycle of siphoning more and more tax dollars and sacrificing more and more state programs to pay for pensions is to follow the lead of the private sector and move new employees to a 401(k)-style system. In the short term, it will not be surprising to see calls to change the state constitution or allow Illinois to file for bankruptcy.

John Tillman, CEO
Illinois Policy Institute

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