Ah, Illinois. I got so excited that we could become the 10th state to formalize marriage equality this week, even as I knew we'd probably not solve our pension problems in one go. Nope:
The gay marriage bill seemed unlikely to make it to a final vote during the waning hours of the Illinois legislature's lame-duck session which ended Tuesday. And with a new legislature about to be sworn in, one sure local vote for the measure will be lost as Skip Saviano, a Republican from Elmwood Park, leaves Springfield after an election loss.
Three other local legislators will continue in the new session and have pledged their support of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. State Sen. Don Harmon and State Reps LaShawn Ford and Camille Lilly will back the bill according to a gay rights advocacy organization. State Rep. Kimberly Lightford reportedly remains undecided on the issue.
The Tribune is livid:
On Tuesday, as their lame-duck session became their dead-duck session, the Illinois General Assembly made it official: House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their Democratic majorities want you to know they simply are not capable of agreeing on any law that would begin to fix their terrible pension debacle. Nor do Gov. Pat Quinn, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno or House Minority Leader Tom Cross have the means to compel them.
So as the state's unfunded pension liability of $96.8 billion rises by some $17.1 million a day, Tuesday's $17.1 million was especially exasperating. Exasperating, that is, for everyone but Squeezy the Pension Python, the mythical creature Quinn's office begat in order to illustrate how pension costs are squeezing the lifeblood out of state government's other missions.
Tuesday was the last in a series of days when lawmakers of both parties could have bucked the public employees unions that dictate so much of state government's policy and spending decisions.
("Squeezy the Pension Python?" At least this governor, unlike his two immediate predecessors, isn't a criminal.)
Anyway, at some point, Illinois' pension system will just collapse, because no one involved is willing to save it. As Tom Lehrer said, "I'm beginning to feel like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis."