There aren’t too many things Illinois can claim to be No. 1 at. We’re a pretty middle-of-the-road Midwestern state. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, we’re the most average state, with our demographics matching the nation’s more closely than any other.
Illinois is No. 1 in horseradish production, in Nobel Prize winners, in political corruption and in incumbent presidents.
We’re also, it turns out, No. 1 in pension shortfall. A state’s retirement system should have 80 percent of the funds it needs to meet long-term pension obligations. How are we doing? According to the Associated Press, Illinois
Had 45 percent of the $138.8 billion it owes long-term. Consistently failed to make its full pension contribution from 2005 to 2010. Lowered pension benefits for future employees in 2010. Now officials are negotiating a proposal to reduce cost-of-living increases for both current and future employees.
And this is after we raised the income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. Even though we lowered pension benefits in 2010, that only covers the tiny percentage of employees who’ve come to work for the state since then. The state constitution prohibits us from lowering benefits for current employees. Since we’re so deep in the hole, we’ll either have to cut services or raise taxes even more.
Illinois is one of only two states with less than half the money it needs for pension obligations. And we’re by far the largest in the Top 10, which also includes Rhode Island, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Alaska and Hawaii. In fact, our $76.3 billion shortfall is bigger than the entire obligation of any of the next nine states.
Now we know the No. 1 issue facing our state.
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