Candidates for Illinois governor are taking different approaches on how they’d tackle the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Illinois has among the most unfunded public sector employee pension liability. State numbers indicate around $151 billion unfunded, but some place like the American Legislative Exchange Council place the debt at $533 billion.

State Sen. Darren Bailey, who’s running against incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said he’ll use reduced state spending to pay down pensions.

“We’ll find the fat in the budget and we’ll begin to apply that to get this pension situation under control, but first and foremost, I will be sitting at the table with pensioners,” Bailey, R-Xenia, told The Center Square. “I fear that the pension debt may be that large looming problem that will sneak up on Illinois if we continue to ignore it as J.B. Pritzker has.”

Pritzker touts on his campaign website “fully funding pension contributions” as a way to reduce state pension liabilities, “going above and beyond with payments and expanding the employee pension buyout program.”

Pritzker’s campaign did not return requests for an interview.

Libertarian candidate Scott Schluter is also on the ballot. His plan would be three-tiered. Tier 1 is current pensioners left untouched, but offer a cash buyout.

“And that number is negotiable with the General Assembly, whatever we can make work but there’s people that may be trying to buy a house, they might be trying to do this or that,” Schluter told The Center Square.

Schluter’s plan would look to buy out earned benefits for Tier 2 pensioners and provide an optional 401(K)-style plan. New hires would go into 401(K)-style savings plans.

“The private sector went away from pension plans in the 80s and 90s because they saw that it was not a great plan, and it didn’t work, and I think the public sector needs to follow that example,” Schluter said.

The election is Nov. 8.

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