Caulkins sees Ives' bill as offering hope to pension-debt strapped cities
Dan Caulkins is hopeful that Rep. Jeanne Ives’ (R-Wheaton) Local Government Bankruptcy Neutral Evaluation Act may offer cities across the state the chance to dig themselves out of the financial ruin crippling so many of them.
“It’s worth exploring,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “A process set up to evaluate the financial situation communities are in and perhaps allow them a chance out, could be immeasurable. It could give us a real chance to see how things are, offer a fair way at arriving at a true assessment.”
Ives has hailed House Bill 5644 as legislation that “authorizes a local public entity to initiate a neutral evaluation process if that entity is unable to meet its financial obligations.”
The proposal comes on the heels of the City of Harvey having its tax revenues garnished due to its growing pension liabilities.
Ives lamented that might be the tip of the iceberg, estimating that at least 20 Illinois cities could soon face a similar fate without an immediate financial restructuring. In every instance, she added, most of the distress has been caused by rising pension obligations.
In the case of Harvey, the city is reported to be tens of millions of dollars in debt in unfunded pension payments.
“Things like bankruptcy should only be considered as a last resort,” Caulkins, a Geneva Republican who is running against Democrat Jennifer McMillin for the seat being vacated by Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) in the 101st District, said. “I firmly believe you don’t make threats like that as a community unless you are seriously prepared to follow through.”
Caulkins said he believes one way to fix the growing pension crisis is for employers to move workers to 401(k)-styled pension plans as opposed to the benefits models that no one can afford.
He said he dreads what could happen if the problem isn’t alleviated before long.
“The price we’re already paying is people are voting with their feet and leaving Illinois,” he said. “The same thing is happening with businesses, and other companies are simply not willing to come. We’re losing jobs and people because we are losing companies. It’s all a vicious circle.”
The 101st House District includes parts of Champaign, McLean, Dewitt, Macon and Piatt counties.