As the Illinois legislature is summoned back to Springfield to deal with the pension debt that lawmakers failed to fix last year, failed to fix last week, and will undoubtedly fail to fix again, why isn’t John Boehner hollering about the dangers of Illinois debt? States like Illinois are a liability for every taxpayer in the country and there is no federal protection against state bailouts (see: Say No to Illinois Debt and Politics: Leave While You Can). Are Illinois lawmakers hoping that the White House will take pity if things get bad enough so they never have to make a pension debt decision?
Even though Illinois just had its credit rating whacked twice, our Democratic state legislature seems determined to wait this one out. The public heard more about LGBT rights, same sex marriage, and banning politicians from the Chicago gay pride parade than the consequences of Illinois’ cataclysmic debt, an unfortunate sign that failing to act has become passé to taxpayers.
Washington legislators should take some action of their own to prevent the type of stunt being pulled in Illinois. Utah’s Jason Chaffetz introduced H. Res. 117 to declare Congress’s rejection of state bailouts for public employee pensions.¹ Illinois’s own Senator Mark Kirk proposed a No State Bailouts Resolution forbidding federal bailouts of broke states, a move that received a nod of approval from the Illinois treasurer.²
Will Barack Obama work with Democrats to try to bail out his decrepit home state before his second stint in Washington is over? If the too big to fail label can be applied to banks, it will certainly stick to states and their revered public employees. We need to see some leadership from John Boehner to get the legislative ball rolling in the House before Illinois pension debt sets another unfortunate precedent and costs taxpayers nationwide a bundle.