Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) – New figures demonstrate how Illinois is getting deeper and deeper into the unfunded pension liability hole.
Gov. Pat Quinn says what’s now an $83 billion dollar debt is increasing by $12.6 million a day.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the state could be another $1 billion or so in the hole before the Illinois General Assembly does anything.
It’s no laughing matter, with the two sides no closer to a deal than they were when they left Springfield three weeks ago.
Legislative leaders on Thursday once again gathered in the fish bowl of a conference room expected to talk about the so-called “cost shift”: local school districts gradually assuming the burden of pension payments they’d negotiated with their teachers. Democrats termed that “a free lunch.”
Instead, the Republicans put a whole new issue on the table.
“We need to expand the discussion to school funding in general,” Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, called it a diversionary tactic.
The two sides met for two hours, with the Republicans trying to ease some downstate school districts’ pension pain with a new school funding formula to offset those costs. That could take a full year, proponents said.
“The unfortunate side effect of that is a vote on pension reform is going to be delayed,” Radogno said.
Quinn says Republicans sought a year, but he will give them five weeks. According to Quinn’s accounting, at $12.6 million a day, the delay would cost $441 million; by the veto session just after Election Day — the soonest most believe a bill could be introduced — it would be $1.7 billion. If they took a full year, the state would be another $4.6 billion in the hole.
“It’s time to go and put the taxpayers first, not politics first,” Quinn said.
Time is also critical because the rating agencies are becoming increasingly impatient and are poised to lower Illinois’ bond rating if the state doesn’t take quick and concrete steps to halt the downward spiral toward complete pension collapse.