Government finance watchdog group Truth In Accounting said each Illinois taxpayer owes $45,000 for the state’s mounting unfunded pension and retiree health care liability.
Sheila Weinberg, the group’s founder and CEO, said the state hasn’t been honest with taxpayers for years. She said state leaders have been hiding the unfunded liabilities of pensions and health care costs.
“Fortunately the pension is on the balance sheet this year, and in two years the retiree health care benefits will finally be on the balance sheets,” Weinberg said.
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Weinberg said Illinoisans owe $187 billion total in unfunded pension and state retiree health care costs. In neighboring Indiana, with an unfunded liability of nearly $5 billion, each taxpayer is on the hook for $2,400. Weinberg says both states have unbalanced budgets.
“If you were to really balance the budget, the taxpayer burden would be zero,” Weinberg said.
While critics say the unfunded liability is something that will be paid down over decades, Weinberg said that argument doesn’t hold water.
Weinberg compared it to paying only the minimum monthly payment on a credit card while the balance continues to grow. Plus, Weinberg said the debt is handed off to future generations.
“In this case prior legislators and governors have racked up this debt and future taxpayers are going to have to pay it and they're not going to get anything for those taxes,” Weinberg said.
Liana Hamm, a 17-year-old from Jacksonville, said if the state doesn’t figure out its debt problem she’ll look to locate to another state.
“I feel like if we keep going this way then I’m going to move,” Hamm said. “You’re not going to get my tax dollars.”
More information can be found online at Truth In Accounting’s website statedatalab.org.