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By: Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

One graphic perfectly captures the absurdity of Illinois pensions over the past three decades.

It’s what Justice Samuel Alito described as Illinois’ “generous public-employee retirement packages” when writing for the majority in the Janus v. AFSCME decision. “Illinois’ pension funds are underfunded by $129 billion as a result of generous public-employee retirement packages” he wrote.

Alito didn’t use the graphic below, but he could have because it makes his point.

In 1987, pension promises made to active workers and retirees in the state’s five state-run pension plans totaled just $18 billion. By 2016, they had ballooned to $208 billion.

That’s a cumulative 1,067 percent increase.

Contrast that to the state’s budget (general fund revenues) which was up just 236 percent over the same time period. Or household incomes, which were up just 127 percent. Or inflation, up just 111 percent.

Promised pension benefits have blown past any ability of the state, the economy or taxpayers to pay for them.

Read the report: Illinois state pensions: Overpromised, not underfunded[1]

Wirepoints released a report on these booming benefits earlier this year, and while it received strong coverage online nationally, Illinois’ traditional media didn’t want to touch it. The findings interfere with the narrative that’s repeatedly promoted by public sector unions and politicians that the crisis is all the taxpayers’ fault for failing to put in enough money towards pensions.[2][3]

The report proved a lack of dollars wasn’t the issue. Illinois pension assets – buoyed by taxpayer contributions – also grew far faster than the same economic indicators in the graphic above. But taxpayer contributions could never keep up...

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