Government pensions gobble up money that should go to the developmentally disabled

People with developmental disabilities in Illinois are going without services that make their lives better because there's not enough money, according to a Chicago Tribune article.

"Nearly 20,000 adults with developmental disabilities are waiting for help from the state to live on their own", describes how the state has failed to meet court-approved targets that will help integrate them into the wider community and provide opportunities for growth.

The article didn't go into whey there isn't enough money to, for

Susie Redfern and her son, Nick, who has autism, at their Aurora home on Nov. 13, 2019. The Redferns have been on the Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services list, a waitlist for disabilities services in Illinois for years. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Susie Redfern and her son, Nick, who has autism, at their Aurora home on Nov. 13, 2019. The Redferns have been on the Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services list, a waitlist for disabilities services in Illinois for years. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

example, attract competent and professional staff to facilities and institutions or to expand quality programs.

But here's the answer: the state's policies make paying government pensions a lot more important than providing programs for developmentally disabled Illinoisans.

A study by the Illinois Policy Institute pulls no punches:

Pension costs already make up 25 percent of Illinois’ budget – a massive amount considering the average for other states is only 4 percent. Those costs have been crowding out funding for the state’s vital services.

Such short-changed "vital services" as discussed in the Tribune's article. Or a long list of other services, including state aid for education, health and medical programs, drug addiction and more and more and more.

Those services don't have the kind of protections that are guaranteed by the Illinois constitution that lays down an iron-clad rule that government employee pensions cannot be reduced, meaning that they can't even be touched for common sense reforms.

Illinois politicians of both parties share the blame, but credit Democrats, who receive the bulk of organized labor's campaign contributions, for the current catastrophe.

So, merrily we go along, acting as if pensions are just fine, no need for reform. Even when it makes life difficult,, if not miserable, for the developmentally disabled people described in the Tribune article.

dennis@dennisbyrne.net

www.dennisbyrne.net 

My historical novel: Madness: The War of 1812

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    Mr. Byrne allows the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) to confuse him regarding the pension cost issue. Yes, Illinois spent about $8 billion on pension costs in 2019--or about 25% of Illinois General Fund budget. But only about $2 billion was for the cost of pensions currently being earned according to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. So our current pension costs are about 6% of our General Fund budget. This is not out of line with other states.

    The remaining pension payments are for our failure to fund pensions for decades.The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that we cannot avoid paying these historical pension costs. Claims from the IPI that we can cut these costs are false. These costs are a constitutional obligation.

    Going forward, pension costs being currently earned are forecast to decline somewhat due to reducing the number of employees and the introduction of a Tier 2 benefit structure for new employees. In twenty years (2039) the current cost of earned pension benefits will be less than $1 billion per year.

    However, the total pension payments due will be $16 billion in 2039. In other words, $15 billion will be for those decades of pension underpayments.

    Illinois needs more revenue to be able to pay its historic pension obligations--and to pay more for good programs like the ones for developmental disabilities discussed above.

    But

  • Perhaps some of those who receive state pensions are also taking care of the developmentally disabled.

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