Quantcast

Federal lawmakers say Illinois debt is unsustainable

capitol-dome-eastimg_7616

SPRINGFIELD — Republican U.S. lawmakers representing Illinois are weighing in on the state’s debt crisis, and a think tank says the state could save money in health-care costs for retired public employees.

By Anthony Brino

SPRINGFIELD — Republican U.S. lawmakers representing Illinois are weighing in on the state’s debt crisis, and a think tank says the state could save money in health-care costs for retired public employees.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, of District 14, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk on Wednesday released the “Illinois Debt Report.”

The state’s unpaid bills and unfunded obligations, they said, are unsustainable.

“Illinois cannot afford to continue on its current path,” Hultgren said in a news release. “And Washington will not bail the state out.”

Illinois, the report says, is on track to end the current fiscal year with a $508 million operating deficit, one of the reasons the state has one of the worst debt ratings in the country.

Illinois has struggled to pay for government services on time, the report notes, with a current backlog of bills approaching $6 billion.

The report estimates Illinois’ unfunded liabilities — largely skyrocketing public pensions costs — could reach $139 billion by 2030.

Health-care costs for retired government employees are a large contributor to that debt, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank.

In a report issued this week, Illinois Policy Institute said the state could save $500 million in the next fiscal year, if government retirees paid about 54 percent of their own health-care costs.

Retired state workers and state university employees pay about 9 percent of that cost, while retired K-12 teachers pay about 40 percent.

The move could go a long way toward reducing taxpayer liabilities for retiree health costs, which run around $1 billion a year and are expected to grow in the coming decades, the think tank said.

Editors’ Picks