$100 billion and counting

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Senate Republicans, Rauner push to skip pension payments

SPRINGFIELD — Officials from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office and Senate Republicans defended their plan to skip pension payments to make the governor’s budget look balanced during a committee hearing this week at the Capitol.

The legislation backed by Gov. Rauner and sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno would give the governor unprecedented authority to raid local government accounts and skip pension payments to bridge any gap in state spending.

The GOP push to skip pension payments comes even as the state’s pension debt tops $100 billion. Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of that debt is due to past lawmakers and governors skipping or shorting pension payments.

Senate President John Cullerton’s legal team found reports dating back to 1917 cautioning against the massive debt accumulating for future taxpayers because not enough was being invested in the pension funds. Skipping pension payments now only makes the situation worse down the road, much like skipping credit card payments.

Cullerton advised Rauner’s budget officials and Republican colleagues not to pursue skipping pension payments.

“This, to me, would be a big mistake,” Cullerton said during committee debate on the Republican proposal.

The legislation is SB 2789.