Swimming upstream faster than the current… (part 2)

More details and suggestions in the second email from Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director, Marc Miller.

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Dear DNR constituent:

In Part 1’s email, I discussed how the victory on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Sustainability Bill demonstrated that the agency is swimming upstream faster than the current, and now I need to explain how the pension squeeze threatens to turn back DNR’s progress.

In order to protect the gains that have been won and work on improving the state parks, sites, and DNR programs, we need you to understand the pension squeeze and be engaged in demanding solutions to the problems. One of the best places for this is the This is My Illinois website, and I strongly encourage you to check it out.

Solving this “pension squeeze” problem can no longer be avoided. Basically, the problem has taken over 70 years to reach this point, and it is caused by avoiding the full annual payment needed to cover the costs of the pension system. Currently, only 45% of the obligations are funded.

The complexity of the problem provides some with the opportunity to shift the blame, finger point and avoid responsibility for the problem. But, there are concrete impacts to inaction and avoidance, and we must address this problem now. So, let’s get practical.

The squeeze has reached a point where the amount of money required to cover pension costs grows faster than the growth of tax dollars the state collects every year.

Many important state goals, like education, social services, police and public safety, and agencies like DNR, cannot be funded against this growing obligation. Over the last several years there have been cuts to each agency’s budget to “feed the squeeze.” There is no end in sight to this crisis, and each day the problem grows worse. In fact, for every day of inaction the state adds $17 million to the total bill of pension costs. In one short week, Illinois could save enough to fund the General Revenue portion of the DNR budget.

Because DNR had already been drastically cut for the previous 12 years, we responded by working for a bill that would help DNR be sustainable. We were successful, but if this larger problem with pension squeeze is not addressed, we will backslide to where we are today with diminishing resources to pay for DNR programs.

Please take a moment to check out "This is My Illinois" to get more information and learn how you can make a difference, and you should call your state legislator. This website has broken down the pension squeeze into clear, simple, language that explains the problem. There are also Twitter, Facebook and YouTube sites to visit and sign up for news and alerts.

All of us have a responsibility to make our government work for the people of Illinois - for ourselves, our neighbors and our children and grandchildren. For the last four years, we have tackled difficult challenges and have made progress against a swift current, and I believe the pension squeeze can also be fixed. We must act, however, and if there is one thing that I have witnessed here as Director, is that if DNR constituents are engaged, aware of the issues, and working towards practical solutions, this agency can be successful. If constituents are not engaged, then funding and resources will be taken away.

Please visit these websites and forward on to your friends and family.

Yours in conservation,
Marc Miller, Director
Illinois DNR

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