Illinois has combined $137 billion in pension and healthcare liabilities on top of $9 billion in current unpaid bills. Yet, Illinois legislators will not even ask 6-figure pensioners to pick up a portion of their health premiums.

The Chicago Tribune reports Surprise! You owe another $54 billion

If Springfield won’t ask six-figure pension beneficiaries to pick up a portion of their health premiums, what are the odds that state legislators will confront their pension monster?

The state of Illinois admits to $83 billion in pension underfunding, a staggering weight on today’s and tomorrow’s taxpayers. Add to that the as yet uncalculated billions in unfunded pension obligations for city, county and other local governments.

A second, often overlooked time bomb merrily ticking for governments nationwide is the cost of health insurance for all those retirees. That number, too, is hard to gauge, because health care costs — like future investment returns — are unknowable. Yet governments typically don’t put aside money for future health care, as they do for future pensions. The culture is to pay-as-you-go.

In Illinois, that means pay-as-you-go-even-more-broke. The Illinois Policy Institute, a right-leaning think tank, now is releasing 133 pages of frightening data. Beyond that $83 billion in unfunded pensions, state government alone faces an unfunded liability of more than $54 billion in retiree health liabilities over the next 30 years.

During the 2011 deliberations, two groups helped block retiree health reform: lawmakers of both parties who have state institutions (and thus state retirees) in their districts, and well-paid lobbyists whose prior careers in government entitle them to, yes, fat public pensions. If that happens this year, we want to read names.

By the last of the IPI’s 133 pages, we conjured one question, then a follow-up:

How could Illinois pols do this to taxpayers?

And come November, will voters finally exact some consequences?

Who is to blame for this mess?

  1. Public unions
  2. Politicians in bed with public unions
  3. Voters who vote for politicians who are in bed with public unions

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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