"I didn't create the problem," the Chicago Democrat said three years ago of Illinois' pension time bomb, "but I'm here to solve it. I know that I was put on earth to get this done."
With a real reformer running the Land of Lincoln--Republican political newcomer Bruce Rauner--and cold facts facing the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, the baby step approach to pension overhaul is over.
From a Chicago Tribune editorial--paid registration required:
If anyone doubted the truth of Gov. Bruce Rauner's insistence that Illinois must radically restructure the costs and scope of government, Friday's ruling settles that. The state with some 7,000 local governments, with the credit rating worse than its 49 peers, with unfunded pension liabilities above $100 billion and rising by more millions daily, with taxation at levels that already are driving businesses (and jobs) beyond its borders — that state has to overhaul its operations.
Expect to hear politicians or advocacy groups or finance experts float notions you've never heard in Illinois. That to preserve money for pension costs, the state workforce may have to be drastically reduced, that work contracted to private firms that don't have to provide such benefits. That as the cost of retirement benefits continues to skyrocket, more of the obligation must be placed on the workers who will reap the benefits. That's not to blame the workers; that's to recognize brutal reality.
You won't hear these and other dramatic thoughts only about state government: Friday's ruling vastly complicates life for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and thousands of other local officials. They prayed that the court would uphold state attempts to curtail retiree benefits, or at least explain how future laws might be written to meet constitutional constraints. Friday's decision offered neither. Maybe Emanuel et al. can offer the court more compelling arguments: Unlike the state, cutting benefits really is our last resort. But after Friday's ruling, they're running uphill.