Miller calls state's pension system 'simply unsustainable'
State Rep.-elect Chris Miller of Oakland says the state’s long-troubled pension system may be showing signs of crumbling even more.
“The system is simply unsustainable, end of story,” Miller told the East Central Reporter. “And as long as the status quo continues doing the same things, it’s foolishness to expect different results.”
Miller points to news that the state’s six pension systems will need in the neighborhood of $845 million more by fiscal year 2020 than they did the year before, most of which will almost certainly need to come from a larger share of the state's tax revenues, as Exhibit A.
The Illinois Auditor General annual State Actuary's Report also concludes that the systems are at the mercy of a volatile stock market, adding, “If there is a significant market downturn, the unfunded actuarial liability and the required state contribution rate could both increase significantly, putting the sustainability of the systems further into question.”
According to the Illinois News Network, researchers add, “Contributions should ramp up as quickly as possible to a level that is expected to prevent the unfunded actuarial accrued liability from growing. Continuing the practice of underfunding the systems increases the risk of needing even larger contributions in the future that may make the systems unsustainable.”
In Miller’s mind, things long ago passed the point of no return where the state's pension system is concerned.
“All this is bankrupting the state, and quite frankly I don’t know how the math for any of it could have ever worked,” said Miller, a Republican who defeated his Democratic opponent, Shirley Bell in November in the 110th District with 60 percent of the vote. “You draw out what you actually contributed to the system in a couple years; then everything else is on the back of the taxpayer.”
Requiring more of the state’s revenues to fund pensions almost certainly means having to curtail options and services in other areas.
“We already have people that have received over a million [dollars] in pension payments and benefits,” Miller added. “Everyone has an advocate except the taxpayer. The way this system is set up essentially amounts to taxpayer abuse. And until we’re willing to deal with reforming pensions, nothing will change.”
Earlier this month, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimated unfunded liabilities for the state’s five pension funds to be somewhere around $134 billion, with average funding just a shade over 40 percent.
“This is not a time for apathy; we have to be willing to stand up and let Springfield know this is enough,” Miller added. “I recently read something that talked about how the last budget was the 18th budget in a row passed that was really unbalanced. That kind of insanity explains how we got to where we find ourselves.”
The 110th House District includes Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Edgar and Lawrence counties.