What do you propose as a solution to the state's $130 billion unfunded pension liability?

Budget

Our pension problems are hurting our economy and our budget. I've been able to implement reforms through executive actions like bringing in more sophisticated asset managers and reduced fees and costs. Altogether we've saved $60 million while increasing investment returns by a full percentage point. I've also been the first executive in recent memory to actually represent taxpayers at the bargaining table with state employees. Too many governors in the past gave away unaffordable benefits in exchange for campaign support. It's a corrupt, closed-loop system that we need to end once and for all. But long-term pension reform also requires the cooperation of the general assembly. Unfortunately, leaders like House Speaker Mike Madigan have been more interested in currying political favor with the special interests than passing real reforms. That's one reason why we need to change the makeup of the general assembly in this year's elections — and that's something I'm committed to achieving.

Our pension problems are hurting our economy and our budget. I've been able to implement reforms through executive actions like bringing in more sophisticated asset managers and reduced fees and costs. Altogether we've saved $60 million while increasing investment returns by a full percentage point. I've also been the first executive in recent memory to actually represent taxpayers at the bargaining table with state employees. Too many governors in the past gave away unaffordable benefits in exchange for campaign support. It's a corrupt, closed-loop system that we need to end once and for all. But long-term pension reform also requires the cooperation of the general assembly. Unfortunately, leaders like House Speaker Mike Madigan have been more interested in currying political favor with the special interests than passing real reforms. That's one reason why we need to change the makeup of the general assembly in this year's elections — and that's something I'm committed to achieving.

As governor, I will lead the charge to: 1. Pass a constitutional amendment to change the pension protection clause of the state constitution. Going forward, pension benefits for services not yet delivered by government workers should be changeable. 2. Require all new hires to enter into a 401(k)-style self-managed plan. Lawmakers need not craft a new, untested 401(k)-style plan. Instead, they can simply expand the State Universities Retirement System's Self-Managed Plan to all state workers. The SURS SMP is a 401(k)-style plan that's been operating for nearly 20 years and is used by over 20,000 SURS members. 3. Re-negotiate pension obligations with current workers and retirees. Many pension plans will either be insolvent or require confiscatory taxes that cannot realistically be paid. We must have an honest conversation — as Rhode Island politicians had with their pensioners — in order to solve this problem once and for all. In addition, I won't stand by and watch the retirement security of local police and firefighters erode just as it has for public workers at the state level. Individual cities must have the right to choose the retirement plan they offer their public safety and municipal workers, whether it's a pension, a 401(k)-style plan, or another option. Unfortunately, reforms may come too late to save the finances of deeply indebted cities with near-insolvent pension funds. Those communities will not survive unless they are given a chance to reorganize their debts. I will promote a bankruptcy option for those cities as part of my reform package. In short, when the first pension fund fails, this will resolve itself more quickly —and there are funds on track to be insolvent in less than 10 years.

There are several plans that have been proposed to address our ongoing pension challenges. The most sensible would bump up our current payments while leveling out the amortization schedule, allowing future state budgeting to be more manageable. We shouldn't focus on assigning blame — there's a lot to go around to both political parties and their leaders for decades. But failing to act is not an option. We have to step up and do what's right for the future of our state budget and our retirees.

The pensions are not underfunded. They are over-promised. The existing pensions should be re-negotiated and with my plan of dissolving the State of Illinois, this could be done by the three new states.

For decades, politicians in Springfield have not lived up to their obligation to teachers and state employees by funding the pension plan. The employees and teachers are not to blame for our pension problems, they paid into the plan. So to scapegoat those hardworking employees for Illinois' pension crisis is entirely unfair and constitutionally, unfeasible. Illinois must fulfill our pension obligations. The state must pay its annual obligations every year. There are four steps we have to take. Infuse the pension system with an upfront investment either through refinancing our debt, tax reform, or both; stretch out our repayment timeline; lower our payments to a manageable size so we aren't creating more debt or being a deadbeat when it comes to paying down our debt, and then, most importantly, never taking another pension holiday again. There's no way around it. Increasing our debt payments does nothing to solve our pension crisis. As Governor, I will not sign any budget that defers any pension payment and I will be a good faith partner to our unions in working toward possible structural reforms. We need to collectively bargain with representative unions about our rate of return as well as restructuring our debt payments to make them more affordable over time.

One of the only ways to resolve part of the $130 billion pension crisis would be offering self funded 40k Plans for new state employees, supporting the new taxes such as Progressive Tax and Financial Transaction Tax which could bring in close to $5 Billion in new revenue. We could use these funds to pay some of the yearly pension debt which comes to $9 billion per yr. This way we could at least catch up on the yearly cost for pensions and then we must look at other ways to pay the $25 million per day in pension cost without taking the funds from other areas of the state budget. We could also use some of the funds from legalizing small amounts of marijuana to pay into the pension fund on a yearly basis.

We didn't get into this pension chasm in one year, and we won't get out in one year. Illinois enacted a law that took effect with new members of the state pension systems in 2011. It raised the retirement age, required greater contributions from employees, capped the level of income that is pensionable at $100,000 (indexed for inflation) and, in the case of Downstate and suburban teachers, pushed the vesting threshold from five years to 10.

Whether or not we consider these policies fair, they are now the law, and they will reduce pension costs over time. However, we have many teachers and state employees who started work before 2011 who are retired now or who will retire over the next several decades. We are on the hook for what we promised them until they are deceased. There is no way to shirk this obligation, nor should there be. We simply have to make our actuarially-required pension payments every year — a responsibility we abdicated many times in the past, which created this problem. As these so-called Tier I employees push through and eventually dwindle, our costs will diminish.

As governor, I will make sure any legislation affecting pensions is fiscally sound and does not raise our costs.

It is important that we honor the commitments we've made to Illinois workers and retirees who are relying on their pensions so they can age with dignity and security. To break this promise would be a mistake and a violation of the Illinois Constitution. Our unfunded pension liability is a result of our state's failure to pay into the pension system over the course of generations, and the first step to solving the problem is to begin making the actuarially responsible payments in full now. This will require implementing long-term progressive revenue streams such as a progressive income tax. We must also look to examples set by other states with systems that are more efficient, less costly, and less corrupt. One clear distinction between pensions in Illinois and other states is the number of systems we maintain. While we have hundreds of separate systems for workers in different places and different industries, other states have a single system. Consolidating our systems into a single fund would make oversight more effective and and enable funds to achieve greater returns on investment through pooled resources. We could also maximize returns from state investments by instituting pension fund management fee transparency.

As governor, I will lead the charge to: 1. Pass a constitutional amendment to change the pension protection clause of the state constitution. Going forward, pension benefits for services not yet delivered by government workers should be changeable. 2. Require all new hires to enter into a 401(k)-style self-managed plan. Lawmakers need not craft a new, untested 401(k)-style plan. Instead, they can simply expand the State Universities Retirement System's Self-Managed Plan to all state workers. The SURS SMP is a 401(k)-style plan that's been operating for nearly 20 years and is used by over 20,000 SURS members. 3. Re-negotiate pension obligations with current workers and retirees. Many pension plans will either be insolvent or require confiscatory taxes that cannot realistically be paid. We must have an honest conversation — as Rhode Island politicians had with their pensioners — in order to solve this problem once and for all. In addition, I won't stand by and watch the retirement security of local police and firefighters erode just as it has for public workers at the state level. Individual cities must have the right to choose the retirement plan they offer their public safety and municipal workers, whether it's a pension, a 401(k)-style plan, or another option. Unfortunately, reforms may come too late to save the finances of deeply indebted cities with near-insolvent pension funds. Those communities will not survive unless they are given a chance to reorganize their debts. I will promote a bankruptcy option for those cities as part of my reform package. In short, when the first pension fund fails, this will resolve itself more quickly —and there are funds on track to be insolvent in less than 10 years.

There are several plans that have been proposed to address our ongoing pension challenges. The most sensible would bump up our current payments while leveling out the amortization schedule, allowing future state budgeting to be more manageable. We shouldn't focus on assigning blame — there's a lot to go around to both political parties and their leaders for decades. But failing to act is not an option. We have to step up and do what's right for the future of our state budget and our retirees.

The pensions are not underfunded. They are over-promised. The existing pensions should be re-negotiated and with my plan of dissolving the State of Illinois, this could be done by the three new states.

For decades, politicians in Springfield have not lived up to their obligation to teachers and state employees by funding the pension plan. The employees and teachers are not to blame for our pension problems, they paid into the plan. So to scapegoat those hardworking employees for Illinois' pension crisis is entirely unfair and constitutionally, unfeasible. Illinois must fulfill our pension obligations. The state must pay its annual obligations every year. There are four steps we have to take. Infuse the pension system with an upfront investment either through refinancing our debt, tax reform, or both; stretch out our repayment timeline; lower our payments to a manageable size so we aren't creating more debt or being a deadbeat when it comes to paying down our debt, and then, most importantly, never taking another pension holiday again. There's no way around it. Increasing our debt payments does nothing to solve our pension crisis. As Governor, I will not sign any budget that defers any pension payment and I will be a good faith partner to our unions in working toward possible structural reforms. We need to collectively bargain with representative unions about our rate of return as well as restructuring our debt payments to make them more affordable over time.

One of the only ways to resolve part of the $130 billion pension crisis would be offering self funded 40k Plans for new state employees, supporting the new taxes such as Progressive Tax and Financial Transaction Tax which could bring in close to $5 Billion in new revenue. We could use these funds to pay some of the yearly pension debt which comes to $9 billion per yr. This way we could at least catch up on the yearly cost for pensions and then we must look at other ways to pay the $25 million per day in pension cost without taking the funds from other areas of the state budget. We could also use some of the funds from legalizing small amounts of marijuana to pay into the pension fund on a yearly basis.

We didn't get into this pension chasm in one year, and we won't get out in one year. Illinois enacted a law that took effect with new members of the state pension systems in 2011. It raised the retirement age, required greater contributions from employees, capped the level of income that is pensionable at $100,000 (indexed for inflation) and, in the case of Downstate and suburban teachers, pushed the vesting threshold from five years to 10.

Whether or not we consider these policies fair, they are now the law, and they will reduce pension costs over time. However, we have many teachers and state employees who started work before 2011 who are retired now or who will retire over the next several decades. We are on the hook for what we promised them until they are deceased. There is no way to shirk this obligation, nor should there be. We simply have to make our actuarially-required pension payments every year — a responsibility we abdicated many times in the past, which created this problem. As these so-called Tier I employees push through and eventually dwindle, our costs will diminish.

As governor, I will make sure any legislation affecting pensions is fiscally sound and does not raise our costs.

It is important that we honor the commitments we've made to Illinois workers and retirees who are relying on their pensions so they can age with dignity and security. To break this promise would be a mistake and a violation of the Illinois Constitution. Our unfunded pension liability is a result of our state's failure to pay into the pension system over the course of generations, and the first step to solving the problem is to begin making the actuarially responsible payments in full now. This will require implementing long-term progressive revenue streams such as a progressive income tax. We must also look to examples set by other states with systems that are more efficient, less costly, and less corrupt. One clear distinction between pensions in Illinois and other states is the number of systems we maintain. While we have hundreds of separate systems for workers in different places and different industries, other states have a single system. Consolidating our systems into a single fund would make oversight more effective and and enable funds to achieve greater returns on investment through pooled resources. We could also maximize returns from state investments by instituting pension fund management fee transparency.