Mt. Vernon Register-News

State News

June 26, 2013

Bad credit rating costs state $130 million extra



The announcement came a day before lawmakers were scheduled to meet downtown Chicago to again discuss finding a compromise to the state's nearly $100 billion shortfall in state employee retirement funding. Quinn has given them a new deadline of July 9 to come up with a solution.

For decades, legislators skipped or shorted payments to state retirement funds, creating the shortfall and making investors nervous year after year. Yet lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly adjourned the spring legislative session again last month without a deal. It was the fifth time in 12 months that they left town without solving the crisis.

At a special legislative session earlier this month, lawmakers agreed to appoint a 10-member bipartisan panel to search for a compromise. The six Democrats and four Republicans were expected to meet Thursday morning in Chicago for a first public hearing. Testimony was expected from a number of key players in the discussions, including unions.

Meanwhile, the pressure mounts on lawmakers to act. On Wednesday, the influential CEO of Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., the state's largest manufacturer, stressed the urgency of pension reform when addressing business leaders at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting in Chicago.

"When you leave here today, I want you to call your local legislators," Doug Oberhelman said. "Tell them that that you have already taken action in your own business to control costs in order to be competitive for the future, and you expect the state to make the same tough decisions that you did."

Quinn's office said this week's bond sale is slated to pay for projects at Western Illinois University's Quad City campus, the Shawnee Mass Transit District, the Madison County Mass Transit district, and school, university and road and rail projects in Galesburg, Champaign, Bloomington, Rockford and Rock Island. It also will fund land acquisition for the suburban Chicago airport and repairs to the city's Red Line transit system.

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