The new pension law does not solve the state’s financial problems by itself. In addition to cutting benefits to retirees, the law requires the state to make its payments every year.
“The whole thing completely depends on that,” says State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who says he hopes the pain lawmakers experienced in enacting this law will be an inducement not to short the pension systems again.
“I feel that there’s a lesson we’ve learned here. Now we could forget that lesson, but our responsibility is to remember it, to teach it to our new colleagues who come in and to make sure the General Assembly does the right thing,” he said.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), who’s running for governor, doubts it will happen. “If history is our guide, the legislature will not have the discipline to live up to the spending commitments that are required under this bill,” he said. He said pensions aren’t sexy, but funding them as required should be a priority for the state.
The state enacted a pension schedule in 1995 that it did not live up to in terms of making the prescribed payments, creating today’s problem of a $100 billion unfunded liability.