S&P Lowers Illinois Credit Rating Over Pensions - NBC Chicago
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S&P Lowers Illinois Credit Rating Over Pensions



    Gov. Pat Quinn got some bad news today, and his neighbor to the north is rubbing it in.

    Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Wednesday lowered Illinois' credit rating in the face of "weak pension funding levels and lack of action on reform measures."

    The news comes after legislators reached no solution for the climbing $80 billion-plus public pension deficit during a special session two weeks ago.

    Quinn blamed legislators in a told-you-so prepared statement.

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    “Over and over again this summer, I made clear that if we do not act on pension reform, the state of Illinois would suffer the consequences," Quinn said. "Now it has."

    Quinn went on to say he can't act alone and called on cooperation from everyone to "make the tough decisions necessary to correct poor financial decisions made by previous governors and legislatures over decades that created this situation today."

    Don't count on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be part of the brainstorming session.

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    "There could not be a more stark contrast between Wisconsin and Illinois," Walker said in a statement response to the rating.

    Walker visited Illinois in April and rebuked “Democrat leadership” without naming Quinn, attacking the state for raising its income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent, failing to balance its budget, cutting Medicaid payments and reducing the number of state employees.

    His argument hasn't died since his visit.

    "Political leaders in Illinois kicked the can down the road," Walker said Wednesday, "raised taxes, and ignored fiscal realities. Now, they’re realizing the consequences of their actions: credit downgrades and negative outlooks."

    Efforts to scale back how public pensions are funded in Illinois failed in the regular spring session. Most Springfield observers cast heavy doubt on any action until after the November election.

    Quinn says the state's pension costs will jump by $12 million each day the issue isn't solved.

    “We must address the unfunded pension liability and we can only do it together. I am inviting the four legislative leaders to a meeting in early September to work on pension reform. Illinois cannot move forward without it.”