When it comes to liabilities for state pensions, the Illinois General Assembly can be embarrassed for two reasons.
One is that by not acting on the pension issue last week, lawmakers left alone a festering pile of debt. It stands at $96 billion or so, growing by an estimated $17 million a day. The 45 percent funding level for those pensions is the lowest figure for any state.
The other issue is that by doing nothing, Illinois is falling behind its peers. A wave of pension changes has swept across state capitols nationwide, making reform the norm the last few years.
Experts in municipal finance said a few states might inspire lawmakers here if they bothered to consider approaches elsewhere. Among them are Rhode Island, like Illinois in that the Democrats run it with strong influence from government employee unions, or Florida, which withstood a court fight to force state workers to make their first contributions toward their pensions. Unions argued it was an illegal cut in pay. More…