GOP candidates ready to 'face the music' to get Illinois back in black Caulkins says
Dan Caulkins has a colorful way of looking at the politicians in Springfield he holds responsible for the state’s out-of-control pension benefits system.
“They’re all responsible for creating this mess by consistently overpromising benefits to state workers,” Caulkins told the Chambana Sun. “That’s especially true for those lawmakers that were around back in the 1980s, but now are long gone. They knew they wouldn’t still be around when the time came to deal with all the promises they were making. It’s like they were around long enough to enjoy this big steak dinner, now we’re stuck with the bill from their dine-and-dash escapades.”
Wirepoints, a research and commentary website that focuses on Illinois’ economy and politics, reports that as recently as 2016 promised benefits were up 1,000 percent compared to where they were in 1987, putting that sector of the economy on a pace all of its own during that period.
With the state’s pension benefits now accelerating at a pace that puts them behind only New Jersey and New Hampshire for fastest growing in the country, every Illinois household now owes $43,000 in pension benefits.
“We’re our only hope,” said Caulkins, who is running against Democrat Jennifer McMillin in the 101st District. “What I mean by that is we’ve got a group of new lawmakers that I believe will be coming in next January that are willing to face the music and make the difficult decisions that have to be made. Many of the things people have gotten used to getting, we can no longer afford. It’s going to take a great deal of discipline and fiscal responsibility to get this state back on the right track.”
While Caulkins laments that Illinois may never be the same, he does have a blueprint for how things should look going forward.
“We can look at the surrounding states and how well many of them are doing to know where we need to be headed,” he said. "For Illinois to first survive, and later thrive, it will take the dedication of this new class of lawmakers.”
If state pension benefits in Illinois had simply grown on par with neighboring states since 2003 the state’s unfunded pension liability would be reduced by up to $85 billion, according to Wirepoints.
Caulkins thinks he knows how things grew to be so out of control.
“There is no other group of people who get an automatic pay increase every year the way state pension workers do,” he said. “No one in private industry can accumulate two-year’s worth of leave and vacation time and cash it in to boost their pension. It’s just been a system of anything goes.”
The 101st House District spans parts of Champaign, McLean, Dewitt, Macon and Piatt counties.