Business leaders say the governor’s proposed pension changes are significant long-term solutions. The state didn’t arrive at a pension crisis overnight, says Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. He says the pension crisis isn’t state workers’ fault; rather, the economic collapse coupled with lawmakers’ use of pension contributions for other purposes has led to the $83 billion in unfunded liabilities.
Maisch says lawmakers can’t continue to avoid making tough decisions. “We think the political danger of doing nothing now outweighs the political danger of doing something,” Maisch says. The governor’s proposals call for state workers to retire later, pay more into the system and get less in terms of cost-of-living adjustments. He says they’ll have to accept it, even though they don’t like it. Maisch says the state should be cautious about shifting too much of the burden to local governments. He says the state shouldn’t hand the problem down the line forcing local governments to raise property taxes. “Yet there is a legitimate public policy problem which local school districts don’t have any skin in the game for increased pension payments when they give a lot of big raises at the end of careers,” Maisch says. Maisch says getting local governments to pay more is the biggest challenge to pension changes.