Springfield passes the buck again
Updated: April 9, 2012 1:11PM
For decades, the public school districts of Illinois dutifully have contributed pension money for their teachers, as state law requires. So have the teachers.
What’s the reward for this consistently responsible good governance? If the state legislature has its way, the dubious prize is being made responsible for much more of the tab. How much more?
The Illinois Association of Schools, which opposes passing the buck, says about $800 million. The Illinois State Board of Education already has put 94 districts on its financial watch lists with 203 more flagged as worrisome.
Why this shift now? It’s an election year, and Springfield already has $8 billion in unpaid state bills and more than $80 billion in unfinanced pension liabilities.
But the fundamental problem is the same old one. Springfield is unable and unwilling to fix the problem that was largely created by its own members, the same ones we seem to re-elect every year.
The entire system of state pensions must be reworked, but no one in Springfield has the nerve.
After decades of statehouse operatives siphoning pension money into other uses, the pension system is gasping for air. It was state government that spent the money it was supposed to put aside.
Let’s call the Legislature’s reprehensible conduct for what it is. They are spendthrift renegers.
The net result is almost surely to be higher property taxes for local homeowners and local businesses. More foreclosures, too.
So, in one swoop of the governor’s pen, state government’s financial balance books could look just fine — at least finer than now.
It would be an illusionist’s feat of disappearing legerdemain. What happened to the elephant behind the curtain? The trick would not make the elephant cease to exist, just moved to the backs of school districts. A neat trick.
To Springfield Democrats, the gift of elephantine debt on local jurisdictions is merely collateral damage.
Local school districts are banding together to fight the move, and we wish them success. Maybe Springfield can be shamed into doing the right thing.