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The debt bomb: Survival, suicide pacts and Illinois


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ct-emanuel-rauner-cullerton-madigan-cps-unions-afscme-edit-20150807-story.htmlChicago Tribune:

Editorial Board

Aug 7 2015


The frail school district that educates nearly 400,000 young Chicagoans is gasping to lower its personnel costs. City Hall, too, fears the remote but real specter of bankruptcy. Cook County and many suburbs have awakened to their own debt crises. On high, the grossly overspent state government that temporarily and notoriously hiked taxes to pay overdue bills ... still can't pay overdue bills. Pass an honestly balanced budget? Bah.


Some of the politicians who run these flailing governments are mulling unorthodox solutions that make them uncomfortable: Increasingly, the public officials' quest to keep delivering services puts them at odds with public-sector unions that have long been their political allies, donors and Election Day warriors.




Citizens know that Illinois pols and their union allies have built a structure of governance that is too vast for taxpayers to afford, and too rigid to willingly accept reinvention. We've written of the deals that stuck taxpayers with spectacularly unsustainable pension costs as suicide pacts: Politicians committed hundreds of billions of dollars that might pay for schools, care for the disabled and other priorities to future retirement benefits of public employees. Unless we curb that burden going forward, we will bequeath to next-generation Illinoisans an infrastructure of services and facilities that is grossly inferior to what our grandparents and parents bequeathed to us.




At some point — maybe now — Democratic leaders have to decide: Will we keep blocking reforms that would cut government costs? Or will we tell our union allies the truth? We can compromise to rescue failing governments. Or we can let them, and many union jobs, implode.

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