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Our view: Pension reform no cartoon caper

Should we be left to believe that the real reason that pension reform didn’t get done this year is because proposals lacked a cartoon mascot or that a lame social media campaign would have moved legislators to tweet the state into fiscal solvency?

Squeezy the Pension Python?

What about Edward the $96 billion pension liability Elephant, Lionel the Cowardly Lobbyist Lion, or Gary the Public Employee Union Gorilla.

The people of Illinois know what’s wrong with this state. They don’t need mascots; they need solutions.

Legislators and governors are elected to lead and solve problems. And if this amateur marketing effort is any indication of how close the state is to
a solution, someone please call the folks at Pixar so at least the cartoons can entertain us while Illinois goes bankrupt.

Meanwhile, as marketing campaigns are being drafted by people who would be fired anywhere other than in the public sector, the pension crisis is costing the state $5 billion a year. That’s $5 billion that’s not going toward schools, roads, social services or back to state taxpayers.

Illinois doesn’t have money to burn. Illinois taxpayers are stretched to the breaking point on the heels of a 67 percent income-tax increase and ever-inflating property taxes. Cuts must be made to pensions. And while we have opposed shifting the teachers’ pension burden to local school districts because that also would overburden property taxpayers, some compromise might be necessary.

There are many options to be considered: reducing or eliminating cost-of-living increases for pension recipients, increasing recipient contributions for benefits including health care, and capping pensions, particularly for those pulling in six-figure pensions.

What’s frustrating about the marketing campaign, besides the corniness, is the assumption that Illinois residents don’t understand how pensions are the top fiscal issue the state faces. Of course they do. And those who don’t already likely never will.

In April, Gov. Pat Quinn said he was “put on earth” to fix the pension system. In his latest promise, he said he would do so by January 2013. But he has not said whether he plans to “phone home” if he fails to do so.

Cartoon and grandiose notions aside, it’s the Illinois General Assembly that will have to pass meaningful pension reform. Let’s hope our elected lawmakers aren’t afraid of snakes.

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