The State Journal Register reports that, though the funding status of the state’s pension systems has been a campaign issue raised by Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Republican opponent, hearing attendees said it was information in a report, not politics, which led to the meeting. The National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA) noted in a recent report that Illinois has the most underfunded pension systems in the US (See NASRA: Public Systems Funding Ratio Drops in 2005).
Candidate Judy Baar Topinka issued a statement at the hearing that, if elected governor, she will fully fund the estimated $5.3 billion pension obligation owed by the state over the next four years, according to the Journal Register. She also questioned Blagojevich’s commitment to fully funding pensions, saying the state has diverted $2.3 billion from pensions over the past two years for other state expenses. Blagojevich’s budget director denied the accusation.
He said the pension systems have more money in them today than if a 1995 funding law had been followed, and an improved economy and tax collections should enable the state to continue making significant contributions to the pension systems.
The state’s five pension systems – covering downstate teachers, state workers, university employees, judges and lawmakers – are $38 billion short of being fully funded.
The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability issued a report in June that blamed the pension shortfall in part on legislation that halted contributions for one fiscal year (See Illinois Pension Contribution Holiday Created $2.3B in Funding Setbacks ).