Dan Hynes and Kirk Dillard, two former gubernatorial candidates, show why the two parties aren't on the same page regarding the state's pension debt.
WTTW's nightly public affairs show Chicago Tonight is pretty unique in the Illinois media landscape. Because of the show's format -- no commercials, minimal fluff content -- politicians who come on the air are given ample time to discuss policy details that are often overlooked by other channels seeking manufactured soundbites. Last night's state budget discussion between two former gubernatorial candidates -- Comptroller Dan Hynes and State Sen. Kirk Dillard R-Hinsdale) -- was no exception.
In an effort to evaluate all of the options available for Illinois lawmakers to close the state's $13 billion deficit, host Elizabeth Brackett made sure to press both Hynes and Dillard on potential pension cuts, including trimming benefits for current state employees. While the comptroller did not mention the questionable constitutionality of that proposal, he did make a key point we've stressed repeatedly: it's not the size of pension benefits that is driving the debt overhang, but the refusal of state lawmakers to make pension payments on time and in full. He also called into question the wisdom of raising the retirement age of teachers and other public employees to 67. "Public employees, teachers, and public pensions," he said, "are the scapegoat for these budget problems." Watch it:
Dillard, on the other hand, insisted on deeper cuts to the pension program and reiterated his party's opposition to a pension borrowing plan. In doing so, he uttered a statement Bill Brady's campaign staff couldn't have been too happy to hear. "You've got to make some really difficult cuts [to cover the pension payments]," he said. "Sen. Brady, to his credit -- and I don't necessarily like cutting across the board -- but Sen. Brady has proposed a 10-percent across-the-board budget cut in state government. That's a real cut." Watch it:
Captiol Fax also notes that Dillard criticized Jason Plummer for refusing to disclose his tax returns. Apparently, Brady hasn't passed along any talking points to his senate colleague.