State Senator Raoul: “Continuing to Skip Pension Payments is not an Option”

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement in response to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s announcement today that the State of Illinois will skip its required November pension payment of $560 million:

Illinois’ sorry history of skipping payments to its pension systems has made its unfunded pension liability the highest in the country. The state has used its pension funds like credit cards to fund essential services because of a persistent unwillingness to face the fact that revenue isn’t keeping pace with the needs of its people.

I had hoped that by now, we all could at least agree that continuing to skip pension payments is not an option. Instead, we learned today that Comptroller Munger does not intend to make the state’s November pension payment on time.

On Aug. 18 and again on Aug. 28, the comptroller told a judge it would be “impossible” for her office to make court-ordered payments to providers of disability services. Yet, threatened with contempt of court, she found a way. Earlier in the fiscal year, Comptroller Munger and the Rauner administration claimed they could not pay for early intervention programs, but those services are now being funded. Today, the comptroller stated that “for all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.” Which is it? This has the feel of a manufactured crisis that is nonetheless all too real to its victims: single parents unable to work because they can no longer afford child care, low-income women waiting for cancer screenings that could save their lives, homeless youth, at-risk teens with no place to go but the streets and many  more.

We have a revenue problem – not a Democratic revenue problem, not a Republican revenue problem, but everybody’s problem. It’s time to end the sideshow and stop trying the same tricks that have held our state back for decades. We were able to come together and get creative about funding our priorities for Fiscal Year 2015. I challenge my colleagues on the right to answer this question:  Have those priorities changed? Are Illinois’ needs less urgent? If not, then we must focus on funding them while also meeting our pension obligations.