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Illinois Voters Reject Tax Increase to Fix Pension Mess

Illinois voters aren’t sure what to make of the pension crisis. Despite a months-long, heated battle between pension reformers and unions in Springfield, voters are relatively evenly divided on what to do and are opposed to making any radical changes. As the State Journal-Register reports:

“There’s a general feeling that state employees are going to have to take some losses in their pension plans, but a majority of people in Illinois is not supportive of draconian measures,” Jackson said. “There is majority support only for incremental changes to the pension system.”

Digging down into the numbers, the strongest finding was that 63 percent of voters do not want to pay for pensions thorugh higher taxes. On the other hand, 57 percent are opposed to freezing cost of living adjustments for pensioners, one of the solutions preferred by pension reformers (although a slight plurality would support a modest cap on COLA adjustments).

Rather than either of these solutions, voters expressed a preference for reducing expenditures by increasing the retirement age, and were convinced that there’s plenty of money to be wrung out of the government by fighting inefficiency.

On the whole, this is a pretty sensible set of ideas. Illinois needs to find a way to make its pension system sustainable without either raising taxes into the stratosphere or crushing the workers who have paid into the system for decades. This is a difficult task for a state with a host of other problems, but Illinois’ voters are optimistic something can be done. The question now is whether Illinois’s legislators will have the courage to follow through.

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