During a discussion of Gov. Quinn's budget proposal on WTTW's Chicago Tonight yesterday, the Heartland Institute's Dan Miller argued that the "gold-plated" state pension system is the "fundamental, systemic problem" with Illinois government and dismissed ...
During a discussion of Gov. Quinn's budget proposal on WTTW's Chicago Tonight yesterday, the Heartland Institute's Dan Miller argued that the "gold-plated" state pension system is the "fundamental, systemic problem" with Illinois government and dismissed concerns from state employee unions about the proposed cuts and reforms. Center for Tax and Budget Accountability executive director Ralph Martire called this "nonsense" and proceeded to point out that Illinois has an extremely low number of state employees (per capita) and does not give out "lavish" benefits. The real problem, Martire countered, is that the state has used the pension system as a credit card for decades, diverting contributions in order to plug holes elsewhere in the budget. Watch it (full video available here):
While Martire said he disagrees with the pension scheme included in Quinn's budget, he commended the governor elsewhere in the segment for making an effort to raise real revenues. "The relief should be more targeted and should focus more clearly on low and middle income families," Martire said. "But at least Gov. Quinn is very much committed to creating a progressive tax structure ... I've not heard a governor stand up for that in the past."
He noted that the budget doesn't address the school funding crisis or other pressing matters, but added that "we can have those conversations on an adult basis, on a bipartisan basis, if you have a governor who is willing to lead on the issues and be honest with the voters -- which we have."
Martire's perpsepective is an interesting one: he's been arguing in favor of progressive taxation for many years now and clearly views Quinn's initial budget as a step in the right direction on that front. On the other hand, he sees room for improvement and is not willing to buy the argument from those on the right that the pension system is to blame for the state's current fiscal woes.
Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO is holding a press conference on the budget in Springfield as we speak. We'll have more on that a bit later.