Report recommends Illinois retool pension plan

December 31, 2012

A new report out Monday recommends that Illinois change its payment plan for the state’s dismally under-funded pensions.

Illinois’ pension funds are now at least $96 billion in the hole.

Back in 1995, some politicians actually saw this problem coming, so they put the state on a 50-year payment plan: By 2045, the pension piggy bank would be 90 percent full.

That plan, which went into effect under Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, was the first time lawmakers put Illinois on an enforceable plan to right the pension systems.

But pension experts have long said that was a bad idea because backloaded payments would only grow in the future. The new report from an outside actuary agrees.

The report recommends Illinois get itself on a plan to fund the retirement systems at a full 100 percent in just 30 years. It’s the same idea behind paying down your mortgage or your credit card: The longer you drag it out, the more it costs in the long run.

Right now, there is a proposal kicking around Springfield that would follow the report’s recommendations. But it’s unclear what, if anything, lawmakers will do with it when they return to work this week.