Here’s a bit of history to keep in mind when you see former Governor Jim Edgar pontificating about our fiscal and pension problems.
When an Illinois governor leaves office, he’s supposed to submit a report to the General Assembly on the state’s condition and make any needed recommendations.
Edgar did so by preparing a book called book “Meeting the Challenge” which recounted his 1991-1999 term as governor. It’s described in a 2012 State Journal-Register article linked here.
“The governor approved the most significant increase in pension benefits for state workers in a quarter century.,” Edgar wrote. “A concerted effort was made to improve state employee benefits and make a career in government service more attractive.”
The book also noted Edgar agreed to other improvements, like adding vision and dental coverage and long-term care insurance, according to the Journal-Register.
As for the “Edgar Ramp,” it was central to the finding by the Securities & Exchange Commission that Illinois misled investors in connection with bond sales after Edgar left office. The Edgar Ramp was unworkable, the SEC basically said, and Illinois should have told bond buyers. The fraudulent nondisclosure was not Edgar’s fault, but the relevance of the Edgar Ramp to the fraud finding and the state’s financial mess is clear.
With his party in control of both houses of the General Assembly during much of his term, and an economy “like a rocket in flight,” as described by a counterpart governor at the time, Pete Wilson in California, Edgar had the stars aligned to sensibly fix the pension system. He did the opposite.
Today, he’s often asked for his wisdom on how to fix our problems. Listen to his answers. There’s nothing of substance there. Just milquetoast platitudes like “we need strong leadership” and “we’ll just have to pay the pensions.”
Edgar’s pension started at age 55. It’s $161,000 today.
And we don’t know how much he has made with his aims to “cash in on the state’s cash woes,” as the Chicago Sun-Times put it. He’s Chairman of the Board of Illinois Financing Partners. They make money by buying bills owed by the state and keeping the late-payment fees when the state finally pays up, according to the Sun-Times.
Kinda like feasting on your own cooking.
Updated 5/16/18 to add the last two paragraphs.
–Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints.