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Our View: Reform pensions, everything else can wait

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Passing pension reform in Illinois won’t be an easy task.

Even if you separate from the conversation politics and the powerful influence that public employee unions have, the solutions will be difficult, even painful, for some, and we can expect legal challenges to any legislation that makes its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

For years, everyone knew a pension fix wouldn’t be easy, as the shortfall for funding the system creeps closer toward $100 billion. It creeps closer by at least $17 million each day, depending on who’s doing the calculations.

Anyone expecting easy solutions in Illinois shouldn’t have run for state office. Yet both Quinn and the General Assembly have failed to make significant progress. Until they do so, they remain derelict in their duty to the people of Illinois.

Somehow, even as rising pension debt cripples the state and affects nearly every function of state government, legislators are finding the time to continue to push odd proposals – from the ludicrous to the mundane.

How many Illinoisans have been fretting over the consumption of lion meat in the state? How about the regulation of colonic hydrotherapy? We’re unsure what one thing has to do with the other.

Ever found yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night worrying about whether we’re paying for portraits of governors who aren’t currently in office? How about whether individuals are running across this fair state snipping off the tails of cattle? Pinning them on donkeys, perhaps?

These are just a few of the things that legislators are concerning themselves with as our public pension systems suffocate the state’s budget.

We’re not saying that legislators aren’t simultaneously worrying about pension reform, but worrying time is over. It’s time for action, and any time spent on frivolous matters that aren’t costing the state $17 million each day is time wasted.

Illinois residents deserve legislators who are laser-focused on pension reform until legislation passes both houses and is signed by Quinn.

Although pension reform certainly isn’t the only problem in the state, it is by far the most critical. A large responsibility for the problems with state pensions rests with the Legislature for it’s failure to properly fund them for years.

We’d urge lawmakers from both parties to put aside all other pet projects and matters that can wait until we have pension reform in Illinois.

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