The Wall Street Journal has lambasted the recent bipartisan deal in the Illinois state legislature to tackle the state’s enormous pension problem, one of the worst in the nation. The Journal cites several problems with the deal, including the fact that only 5% of new state employees will be moved to 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans, and that some expensive pension plans will be “grandfathered” into the new system.
Several Republican candidates for governor in 2014 have also denounced the deal. Bruce Rauner, the likely frontrunner, criticized the deal for a lack of transparency and said that Democrats planned to raise taxes in the future while prioritizing pension payments in state spending. “A vote for this bill is a vote for insufficient reform,” he said in a press statement. “A vote for this bill is a vote for a future tax increase.”
Jonathan Greenberg of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, quipped: “”We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Based on the outlines of the deal, his organization has prepared an analysis that notes, among other things, that the pension reform only reduces the shortfall to the point it was at in 2011, and that it actually reduces state workers’ personal contributions to Illinois’ pension plan.
The Journal, dismissing the state party as “cuckolded,” warns Republicans that the bill would give Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn a talking point for his re-election effort and allow him to claim a bipartisan victory that does not solve the problem. Instead of “me-too” and “quarter-baked” reforms, it argues, Republicans should push for real change. Notably, the Journal took the opposite editorial tack during the recent federal budget debate.