Rutherford Cites Budget Improvement, But Pension Reform Still Needed

June 23, 2011

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford says he supports the vote by Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday to pass appropriations for construction projects --- without the extra money for social service spending that Senate Democrats tried to tack on.

The Republican Rutherford, a former state senator himself, said the vote is just one of the places where lawmakers have made progress in reining in spending this year. But he said just cutting discretionary spending will not be enough --- if the state of Illinois doesn't gain control of the $130 billion underfunding of its pension funds for state employees and teachers.

"As the state treasurer of Illinois, I went and cut 50% of my vehicle fleet," Rutherford said. When I went into office, I cut 73% of the cell phones and Blackberries. All of that adds up to money, but it's not going to fix the problem. It's the unfunded liability in our pension systems --- that we have to look to addressing what type of pension systems we have in place for the public employees."

Rutherford supported legislation (SB 512) during the spring session that would have provided a range of pension options and contribution levels for current state employees --- as a way to control costs. The bill was withdrawn by Illinois House leaders in the face of opposition from state employee unions.

Opponents questioned the claims of supporters that the measure follows constitutional language requiring the state to live up to contracts. Rutherford said he hopes that hearings scheduled for this summer will help build support for the bill in the upcoming fall session.

Story source: WILL