-By Warner Todd Huston
Americans for Prosperity - Illinois has launched an effort to goad our lawmakers in Springfield to tackle the single most vexing problem the state faces: pension obligations.
AFP has launched a website called "Fix Illinois Pensions Now" to help inform and empower voters so that they might encourage their representatives to do the right thing and fix this mess now!
A second website to find important information can be seen at: www.illinoisisbroke.org.
AFP has partnered with The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and they have jointly produced an informative video on the effort.
AFP has also conducted a state-wide poll to gauge the public's reaction to the pension crisis. Over 31 thousand Illinois citizens took part in the poll. Joe Calomino, AFP Illinois chapter director, has released some of the results of the poll.
- 71% expressed concern about the amount of pension debt the State is carrying. Only 18% expressed no concern, with the remaining 11% being uncertain.
- The ability of government workers to retire with full benefits at the age of 55 was the top issue that concerned respondents. In all, 74% chose some aspect of the State retirement benefits as an area of concern, while 19% saw no problem and 7% were uncertain.
- 36% believe moving the minimum retirement age from 55 to 65 would be the most effective reform to implement. In all, 80% expressed a belief that reforms could be effective, with 14% believing none would be necessary and 7% having no opinion.
- Only Chicago showed some weakness, but that is displayed more in people being uncertain rather than believing that nothing needs to be done.
- There is little difference between results between union and non-union households when it comes to government workers' pensions in general. Union households do not view the government pension system in the same light as their own, although there is some softness in terms of benefits.
- While there are clear differences between Republicans, Democrats and Independents on the issues, Democrats and Independents are still open to reforming the system. But while only Republicans strongly believe government workers should pay more toward their retirement, the three factions are in lockstep in supporting pushing the retirement age to 65.
- Younger people probably see themselves as the ones who will have to pay the heavy pension debt load in the long run. In previous polls we've conducted, the younger respondents have not shown as much interest in this issue as in this one. Now, with increased publicity, they are catching on.
Certainly we cannot entirely blame government employees for this mess as the final decision to continue to inflate the benefits and pay of state employees was that of our elected representatives -- even as they were paid off by government unions to do so. But the fact is that many of these union represented, government employees are able to retire at 55 will full benefits, at least a full decade earlier than most Americans. Not only that but many of these state employees then go on to get other jobs with counties, the state, or local cities (or neighboring states and municipalities) and can then begin to double dip into the pension system.
At some point, becoming a state or federal employee is almost like hitting the lottery!
These benefits need to be restructured for future employees and the pension obligations that are by law required need to be paid for. Illinois government must stop stealing money from its pension funds to pay for unnecessary programs and other wild spending.
In FY2011, Illinois faces a $12 BILLION dollar structural budget deficit. More than half of that - $7 BILLION - is related to generous pension and retiree health care programs for government workers that the State simply cannot afford. These generous programs will have racked up more than $140 BILLION in debt and unfunded liabilities by the end of FY2011.
Lawmakers in Springfield are at fault for this--not government employees. Lawmakers need to hear your voice NOW. Click here to send a letter to your lawmaker and Governor Quinn.
Join AFP and the Civic Committee in helping to spread the word.