* Crain’s goes super-hyper-breathless on John Cullerton…
It’s official: Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is the Alfred E. Neuman of Illinois politics.
As all but the most dedicated news-avoiders know by now, Illinois has a problem on its hands. It’s a big, big problem. Whopping. Ballooning. Staggering. Mushrooming. You could use any of those adjectives and then some, and they’d all be pretty accurate. That’s because Illinois has racked up more than $100 billion in unfunded pension obligations to its public employees. It’s a debt burden that’s threatening to sink the state’s finances. And no one in Illinois government seems ready to do a thing about it.
Now to limited thinkers like you and me, a state that’s more or less in bankruptcy is a state that’s facing something like a crisis. But then, we don’t think like Mr. Cullerton. What fortitude it must take to look upon tempests and never be shaken, to be presented with a mile-long IOU and simply shrug. That’s what happened this past weekend, when the North Side Democrat told a WGN-AM/720 radio interviewer that Illinois’ massive pension debt — the worst in the nation, mind you — is not a “crisis.”
Never mind the fact that the partial expiration of the state income tax increase in a little over a year will cost state coffers hundreds of billions of dollars by 2045 - the year arbitrarily designated by Jim Edgar back in the ’90s to fully fund the state’s pension systems. That tax hike budget hit is not a “crisis,” you see. It’s only a “crisis” if the powers that be decree it is so.
* But, I do admit that it’s Cullerton’s own fault that he’s being ridiculed for his “crisis” comment, as the Tribune rightly notes…
Barely a year ago, on Sept. 13, 2012, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton met with the Tribune editorial board. He was positively loquacious in explaining why public pension reform was his No. 1 priority for the 2013 legislative session:
“It may not be the No. 1 priority of the public because they don’t understand the significance of how this crisis affects the operation of state government,” Cullerton said. “But those of us who know the state budget know this is essential because you wouldn’t have enough money to pay for health care or education.”
And that wasn’t the only time Cullerton referred to the pension “crisis”…