Tuesday, November 20, 2012
When it Comes to Pensions Will Squeezy Make Legislators Queasy?
Even though they swamped the Republican Party this past election nationally, statewide and in Lake County, Democrats are now faced with the ugly prospect of actually governing and offering solutions to long-standing financial problems that just will not go away.
Fiscal cliff in Washington, D.C? They waited until after the election to "talk" about it and we now watch our President posturing about taxing the rich instead of offering his solutions or accepting the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles report, which he shelved over a year ago.
The overwhelming debt and red ink of our beloved government in Springfield? We've been watching a decade of posturing on those subjects by Democrats in control, and listened to their explanation of a "temporary income tax increase" they passed during a lame duck session two sessions as solving nearly all of those problems. Problem is, the financial situation of Illinois Government continues to grow worse. The gang in Springfield continues to spend more money than ever, even while claiming "cut backs."
So what is the deal with "Squeezy The Pension Python"? Yes, "Squeezy" is a mascot created by Governor Pat Quinn. You would think with the all the time he plotted to create "Squeezy" he would have drafted legislation for the legislature to consider on the pension crisis which has enveloped this State. Or at least make "Squeezy" a little less Walt Disney friendly and make him look meaner and more dangerous. Or maybe our State financial problems can be solved through the manufacture and sale of "Squeezy" dolls for kids to hug and sleep with at night? Or our Springfield politicians? Sounds like a revenue enhancer to me!
During the last year of Governor George Ryan's tenure as Governor of Illinois which was a decade ago, public pensions in Illinois were funded on the average at a rate of 78% of their future liabilities. During the decade long dominance of Springfield government by Democrats, this average rate of funding has plummeted to a reported 38% to 44%, depending on which report you read and wish to believe.
The Democrats call this a long standing problem that has persisted over three decades a bipartisan creation. Yet under Republican governance, underfunded pensions were funded to the point where 78% of future liabilities was reached from earlier lows.
When the Democrats took over, they declared several "Pension Holidays" (i.e. no state payments into the funds) over several budgets. Other years they severely underfunded their payments. The funding percentage plunged. Adding to the problems are vanishing interest rates and returns from fund investments.
Now some conservative groups are screaming that pension benefits to State employees and teachers should be severely cut back because they are now unaffordable. They are making the employees and teachers the villains, which is what those Springfield politicians want. Do you think they will honestly take personal responsibility for actions on this subject? The real villains are not the employees here.
What is also missing from this argument is that the state employees and teachers paid their share into those funds through deductions from each one of their paychecks received over the years. The State of Illinois did not pay their matching share of those deductions.
So why punish the employees at the expense of our misbehaving State?
Democrats are pushing a plan to take teacher pensions and arrange to have our property taxes pay future liabilities the State is currently on the hook for.
Governor Quinn over the weekend, after expressing his frustration that no solution to the pension crisis has emerged from the General Assembly dominated by his fellow Democrats after over a year of hand wringing, began a grassroots campaign to shame the legislature into action. He introduced a web page featuring "Squeezy The Pension Python."
I'm not one to proclaim doom when Democrats get elected to office. I don't threaten to move to the North Pole or Texas. I do express my annoyance, but "Squeezy The Pension Python?" Really?
More proof that Democrats Cannot Govern. Need I say more?