State Net Capitol Journal: Pension Problems Nothing New to IL

State Net Capitol Journal: Pension Problems Nothing New to IL

Illinois' $97 billion unfunded pension liability - among the largest in the nation - was apparently decades in the making. 
 
"Of principle concern to the Commission is the accumulation of large unfunded accrued liabilities resulting for the most part from the inadequacy of government contributions in prior years to meet increases in costs due to the upward trend in salary rates and large additions to the membership of the funds," the Illinois Public Employees Pension Laws Commission stated in a report to then-Gov. William Stratton - in 1959. 
 
A letter from the State Universities Retirement System to delegates of the state's 1970 Constitutional Convention indicated the state's public employee pensions were already running a debt in 1946 and that lawmakers had failed to take action to keep the pension system from falling further into the red. 
 
"Despite this legislative mandate for stabilization of the past service liabilities, the General Assembly refused to appropriate the necessary funds to meet this requirement during the 1969 and 1970 legislative sessions," the letter said. 
 
Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation of Chicago, summed up the matter simply. 
 
"What has happened is a culture and a willingness by past governors and General Assemblies to take a very short-term perspective on the costs of underfunding the pension systems," he said. "It was easier to underfund pensions than not fund other programs." (STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER [SPRINGFIELD])  

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