CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said Monday that the state is only hurting itself by failing to take action to resolve its ballooning pension debt and declining credit rating.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Cullerton said if Illinois lawmakers were embarrassed by another downgrading of the state’s credit rating last week, that’s fine with him if it gets them to finally vote for significant pension reform.
On Friday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered the state’s credit rating, from A- to A, making it the lowest rating of all 50 states. Illinois has $96 billion in unpaid pension obligations.
Cullerton told the City Club of Chicago, as long as the General Assembly does nothing about the state’s pension debt, it will see billions drained away from social programs and education, and its credit rating remain in the tank.
He said he hopes legislators are embarrassed by that.
“Whatever it takes to motivate people to take a tough vote, I’m more than happy to use, to try to get people to vote,” he said.
He’s pushing compromise legislation that combines ideas from the House and Senate.
“We’re one vote away from changing the whole dynamic. Our state has been downgraded in terms of how we’re rated. This whole thing can change with this one bill,” he said.
Currently, the state’s pension debt is draining money from important programs by the billions, and is making borrowing money more expensive, Cullerton said.
Lawmakers return to Springfield for session next week, when Gov. Pat Quinn will present his annual State of the State address.