Rep. Bailey looks 'out of the box' for state's pension cure
Republican State Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) worries that nothing in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recent budget address changes the fiscal tone of what is happening in Illinois.
“What this is doing to the taxpayer is shameful," Bailey told the SE Illinois News. “We’ve got to do something out of the box to try to get this pension situation under control.”
Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) reports state and local governments in Illinois now spend more than any other state in the country on pension benefits at nearly double the national average of 4.65 percent. Overall, pension-related expenditures now consume more than a quarter of the state’s budget, topping such critical areas as public safety, education and social services, IPI states.
While researchers found the cost of unfunded pensions to state and local governments to be rising across the country, with Pew Charitable Trusts pegging the cumulative cost at well over $1 trillion, Bailey argues that no place is quite like Illinois.
“It’s like when it comes to common sense issues, too many democratic lawmakers are oblivious to the issues, blinded by all (House Speaker Mike) Madigan’s money,” he said. “It’s as if they can’t see past that at all.”
Indeed, Illinois is just one of two states where pension spending continued to grow at an accelerated clip over a decade-long period ending in 2015. In 2018, the state’s 601-percent pension debt as a percentage of state revenues was also a record high.
“We have to get serious about things like switching new hires over to 401 plans and the like,” added Bailey, who won the 109th District in November with 75 percent of the vote. “I don’t think anyone else has been getting a 3-percent raise for the last 40 years like a lot of the state workers now getting these pensions, and that’s also part of the problem.”
As more local governments move to hike taxes even higher and cut central government services in a desperate effort to deal with still-rising pension payments, Bailey concedes things may get worse before they get better.
“But in the end, I still have faith in the voter,” he said. "I’m willing to hedge that they will soon wake up and rise up against all the dysfunction in Springfield.”
The 109th House District includes all or parts of Clay, Edwards, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White counties.