Illinois' $17-million-a-day pension crisis, by the numbers

June 18, 2013 9:49:58 PM PDT
Wednesday's special session in Springfield is expected to begin and end without a deal to reform Illinois' pension system.

Instead, top lawmakers now say they will form a special committee to look for a compromise to get the state out from under nearly $100 billion in pension debt.

The numbers are overwhelming, so ABC7's Ben Bradley is here to put them into context.

Let's forget for a moment the biggest of the numbers and focus on what the Quinn administration says- not fixing the pension crisis- costs Illinois every single day.

That number: $17 million. Each day. Every day. Until the politicians agree on a way to fix this mess.

Governor Pat Quinn is the commencement speaker tonight for the biggest class of graduates in the State of Illinois.

893 Lane Tech High School students received their diplomas on Tuesday night.

The $17 million dollars the state burns on pensions every day could pay the first year's tuition, books and supplies at the University of Illinois for each and every graduate in this room.

ABC7's Ben Bradley asks a Lane Tech graduate: "What do you think that they're wasting that much money every day?"

"That's crazy! They should really think about what they're using it for and give it to people like me!" said Zana Dixon, a Lane Tech graduate.

Aside from a free ride at U of I for these grads, that $17 million a day could pay for Chicago Public Schools to hire 204 new teachers.

The Chicago Police Department: 136 new officers.

And the DuPage County Forest Preserve District says it could use the money to buy 100-acres of land.

ABC7's Ben Bradley asks: "Is that money that's literally getting burned every day?"

"It's lost opportunity," said Gov. Quinn.

Governor Pat Quinn has- to a degree- been held hostage by leaders of the Legislature who have turned pension reform into a political hot potato.

Wednesday's special session will cost taxpayers another $40,000. What will we have to show for it? A deal, to keep talking about a "possible" deal.

"John Cullerton and I, we talked about this and we're prepared to accede to the Governor's request in the expectation that the Governor will continue to be an active participant in the lawmaking," said Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

"I think leaders of the legislature understand that running in place is not an option. They must act and put a bill on my desk that I can sigh into low and stop losing $17 million a day," said Gov. Quinn.

Illinois' dysfunctional government also costs us every time the state borrows money.

Next week, another round of borrowing is scheduled. The Illinois Policy Institute has done the math and determined the extra interest on $1 billion will cost the state an additional $14.5 million.


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