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.

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  1. Mark Kirk

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

    Greg Hinz wrote about this in Crain's Chicago Business.

    Hinz focused not so much on the findings of the right-wing think  or debt issues, but  on the mysterious status of Senator Kirk's health. 

    "But the still-ailing senator wasn't there to deliver the update on his report. Instead, it was delivered by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Wheaton, who allowed that he got the report from "staff," and isn't even talking to the senator until later today."

    This is important.  Recently Rep. Giffords of Arizona  left  Congress, perhaps too late, when it was clear to everyone that she could no longer represent her constituents.  Unlike Giffords – a mere Congresswoman, and in the minority party too – Senator Kirk's duties cannot just be passed off to staff members.

    Enquiring minds want to know if Senator Kirk is capable of doing his job.  If not , it is his responsibility to resign and let us elect a new senator in November.

  2. Why jusr Kirk?

    Dear Enquiring Know it All,

    Why limit it our injured senator?

    Most of state legislators and members Congres are not performing,

    Why shouldn't they be forced to resign?

    Or this administration?

    Which thinks that debt does not matter.


    1. Incapacity

      Vito, there is a difference between a legislator who is incapacitated, as in physically unable to do his or her job,  and a legislator who just happens to disagree with you.

      Whether you agree with the policies of other legislators on debt is not relevant.  They were elected, and they are carrying out their duties – perhaps not the way you want, but that's too bad.

      Mark Kirk is apparently not able to do carry out his duties.  Or maybe he is.  Nobody really knows, and Kirk's office isn't telling us, and enquiring minds want to know.

      When the great Justice William O. Douglas was incapable of doing his job, 7 other justices agreed to ignore him and not let him be the deciding vote on anything.  When the evil Chief Justice Rehnquist was incapacitated, he hung on until he died in office.   Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd and even Ted Kennedy hung around much longer than they should have.   If Kirk can't do his job, he should quit.

      1. Incapacity vs outcome

        It is hard to tell the difference with our present office holders. It is results that matter. Some of our elected officials sound great because they have resonance where their brains should be. By your criteria should FDR have resigned?  Wilson?

        1. FDR, Wilson
          “By your criteria should FDR have resigned? Wilson?”

          FDR was a capable leader up until near the end. Towards 1944 he was losing it. He should not have run for a fourth term.

          Wilson’s second term was a joke. He should not have been in office, and if we had Amendment XXV back then, it probably would have been invoked.

          Reagan, too, was senile during the last years of his administration.

          1. Resign or hold the fort?

            If it is a Republican, hands wring and teeth gnash.

            A Democrat is different. Even if Derek Smith is indicted, wins the primary, as a loyal Democrat he stays on…

            No qualms there Mr/Ms Anonymous?

            Reagan may have been senile, but he did not make things worse.

          2. Party doesn’t matter if you can’t do your job

            Derek Smith should resign, and Blago should have resigned.  Party doesn't matter if you can't do your job.

            As for the comment: "Reagan may have been senile, but he did not make things worse."

            Well…there was that whole Iran-Contra thing, where the out-to-lunch President either agreed to the stupid scheme (likely) or was asleep while rogue agents hatched it (if we want to believe that Reagan broke no laws).

            How did that work out?

            We were secretly arming Iran while telling our European allies to boycott Iran (!), and supporting death squads in Central America.  When it was discovered that we were betraying our good friend Saddam Hussein (!) by selling arms to Iran, it wasn't long before he turned his attention to invading Kuwait.  Lots of American troops sent to the Gulf, and to Saudi Arabia, to "liberate" Kuwait ( restore the corrupt emir to power).  Lots of American troops in Arabia makes bin Laden, another one of our former friends, angry…..

            Yeah, Reagan did no harm.


          3. Iran and Carter

            What about Jimmy Carter and Iran?

               Carter continued the US policy of propping up the despicable Shah of Iran.  When the Iranian people rightfully overthrew the Shah (unfortunately replacing him with a new despicable regime), Carter encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Iran and kill lots of civilians.  The Iranian government, meanwhile, participated in the hostage taking at the US Embassy.   Members of the Reagan/Bush campaign made sure that the hostages were not released until after Carter was gone, and then a few years later Reagan sold weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages, while denying that he ever sold weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages.

          4. So?

            All it shows is that politics rules above all. Carter was inept, Reagan was politically savvy — they were just different practicioners of politics. Were you around waiting at the gas pumps during Carter's green period.

            I wish there was another Truman.

          5. Truman

            He was a good conservative. But remember he autherized the cia to install the Shan in Iran. I'm not saying that it was a good or bad move.

            Also the guy that said that Reagan's supporters engineered the hostages not being released until Reagan was sworn-in, are relying on their expert knowledge of something the 1981 press called unfounded rumors spread by Carter supporters.

          6. Reagan?

            You speak very bad about the man who is probably our greatest president, with the exception of Lincoln. The man who followed 3 presidents who at the time were bad, worse, and worst (Nixon, Ford, and Carter). The man who was responsible for the collapse of the USSR.

            You mix facts, rumors, and Saturday Night Live joke in your  effort to put down a great president. Did you ever think about using your venom on our current president who has failed on both domestic and foreign policy.

            Despite the above, I respect your right to speak and write what you believe to be true.

            Have a nice day.

          7. The worst of all was

            Sidney Yates. During his last 3 terms in the House of Representatives he required assistance to cast his votes. I remember being in the gallery on one occasion and saw him vote 2 times. He had an aide standing behind him. Another aide would come over and tell the other aide how to vote and the 1st aide would grab Yates hand. He would then use Yates' finger to select the vote.

            I asked another congressman if this was legal. He replied that it has been going on a long time and we can't do anything about it.

            It appears than Jan was an appropriate replacement for Sidney.

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