Illinois Voters Blame Politicians, Not Unions, for Pension Mess

rahm brizard

The state of Illinois may be facing a fiscal cliff created by an $83 billion unfunded pension liability, and a huge majority of voters say they blame their elected officials for it.

A new poll from Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV shows 51 percent of Illinois voters blamed the state’s politicians alone for Illinois’ pension problems, but only 2 percent said it was just the fault of public workers. Another 32 percent said they believed it was a combination of state workers and politicians at fault for the problem.

In Cook County it was even more decisive. Almost half of Chicago and suburban Cook County voters blamed their elected officials, while 55 percent of collar county and 51 percent of Downstate voters put the onus on politicians alone. Fully 55 percent of Democratic voters blamed politicians, but among Republican voters, 47 percent faulted elected officials and 37 percent contended the problem was politicians and state workers acting together.

The survey also found that downstate and suburban residents stand in opposition to the efforts of Democrats including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn to gradually move the costs of teacher retirement benefits on to local school districts outside Chicago.

The state has the largest unfunded pension liability in the nation. It may even be greater than $83 billion. If not attended to soon, ratings agencies downgraded the state’s creditworthiness which could mean that it costs the state more to borrow money.

Quinn has warned that without reforms, the state’s annual pension payment will be greater than funding for education. And Emanuel warned last week that without action in Springfield, the city would need $700 million more just to pay for police and firefighter pensions in 2015.