02/18/2010 - At 10 a.m. Wednesday a respected research group, the Pew Center on the States, rolled out a report on severely unfunded pension obligations. One key finding: Illinois ranks dead-last nationally in the percentage of necessary money it has set aside to pay public employees' pensions. At precisely that moment, the Illinois Senate was meeting–illegally, we suspect–in closed-door session to hear a presentation about state budget problems nationwide. "You know you're not invited," Senate President John Cullerton told Statehouse reporters–including the Tribune's Ray Long, who was denied entry by the sergeant-at-arms when he sought to follow Cullerton into the meeting room.
Think long about that. Cullerton, D-Chicago, and every Democratic and Republican senator who played along, didn't think you –or the reporters who try to keep an eye on politicians for you–had any place in that room. The open-meetings provision of the Illinois Constitution be damned. And never mind that you pay for the salaries, staffs and offices of every lawmaker in attendance: Sorry, citizens, it's your money, not your business.
Luckily for the politicians, Pew's data set captured the pension shortfall only through fiscal 2008. By Pew's calculations, Illinois had funded a worst-in-the-nation 54 percent of its pension obligations, with an unfunded liability of $54.4 billion.
To read the full opinion editorial, "Dead-Last and Hiding," visit chicagotribune.com.