As lawmakers scramble to stave off the so-called "fiscal cliff," Illinois is bracing for the potentially severe effects.
According to economic experts, the Land of Lincoln not only will feel the pain if the government dives off the cliff, it will be one of the most affected states. Illinois stands to lose $1 billion or more if the deadline passes without a deal from Washington, the Chicago Tribune reported, pointing to a prediction from a top aide to Gov. Pat Quinn.
For a state already feeling lost in an $96 billion-plus public pension deficit and a stack of growing bills, the fiscal cliff could be a colossal setback that residents will feel, and Quinn apparently knows it. The governor on Sunday launched an internet campaign to draw awareness to the pension crisis and stalled talks on the subject.
The "thanks in advance" campaign is centered on how kids will be affected by what Quinn calls the “most urgent challenge of the decade.” The kid angle could explain the campaign's mascot, a cartoon snake named Squeezy the Pension Python, leading the charge. Or maybe not.
"Children have a critical stake in pension reform and that’s why we are here today calling Illinois citizens to action," Quinn said in a statement. "If the General Assembly passes comprehensive reform, we will ease the squeeze on essential services, restore fiscal stability to our state and protect the future of the next generation."
Quinn said pension costs are "squeezing Illinois schools, public safety, job creation, decent health care and vital services." It also puts Illinois last on several lists for unfunded pension liability.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services in August lowered Illinois' credit rating in the face of "weak pension funding levels and lack of action on reform measures."
Efforts to scale back how public pensions are funded failed in the regular spring session. Most Springfield observers casted heavy doubt on any action until after the November election, and now that the election has come and gone, Quinn is busy trying to clean things up before a possibly even bigger blow.