By Mark Glennon*


There’s a stunner buried in that poll released today, more surprising than showing Lisa Madigan is at risk of losing her Attorney General race to challenger Paul Shimpf. Question 20 asked 800 likely Illinois voters if they “support pension reform that would include a reduction in benefits to public employees.”


70% said no!


A full copy of the poll is linked here. Had the question been worded differently the response no doubt would have varied somewhat, but that 70% number is so large that it’s hard to avoid being, well, flabbergasted.


The poll also asked what is most responsible for Illinois being deeply in debt. Pensions came in third, behind “political corruption” and “failed political leadership.” Maybe that response is less concerning since voters are rightly furious about those things, but they sure don’t seem to understand that pensions are the 800 pound gorilla in our fiscal crisis. Apparently, Senate President John Cullerton’s comment last year that there’s “no crisis” with public employee pensions, though ridiculed in the national press, is accepted wisdom in Illinois.


We won’t try to summarize hundreds pages of numbers and analysis we’ve linked to here, or the reasons behind our conviction that many pensions must be cut  in some fair, means-tested, but big way. Suffice it to say that even Springfield knows that benefits have to be cut, including most Democrats in the legislature, beholden as many of them are to public unions. They disagree about how large the cuts should be, but they already voted last year for pension reform that included benefit reductions.


Our media no doubt will rise to the challenge of educating voters about what has to be done, right?  Don’t count on it. Read the stories linked in the Media Watch section on our home page. Denial and ignorance are commonplace. We’re never short of material for that section.


Our mission statement here at WirePoints is about helping inject more realism into Illinois’s fiscal debate and the importance of financial literacy. If that poll is right, the challenge is even bigger than we thought.


*Mark Glennon is founder of WirePoints



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6 years ago

The disconnect between what needs to be done and what the public supports may be wider than ever.

6 years ago

they don’t think it will affect them. they haven’t felt the pain yet. Of course, if you drive around Chicago, or bike, you’ll notice they haven’t taken care of the roads.

6 years ago

I would guess that people are not interested in diminishing the pensions protected by the IL Constitution because they believe it would be illegal and morally wrong to take away what has been promised through a binding contract. The state got into this mess because the elected representatives did not fund the pensions as they should have done and instead used those funds to launch pet projects they hoped would get them reelected. Solve the problem, but not on the backs of retirees who have counted on their pensions to remain intact. They earned them, they were promised them and… Read more »

Jim Palermo
6 years ago

It isn’t surprising that the public believes pension benefits shouldn’t be reduced to improve the funding status of Illinois’ state and local pension plans. Most people simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of the issues to offer a well-informed response. Further, the elderly and sometimes indigent retirees from Rhode Island, Detroit, and other critically underfunded plans deserve our genuine concern, so it is easy to understand that 70% of residents don’t favor benefit reductions. The headlines often blame poor investment returns, so-called “pension spiking” and “double-dipping” as the root causes of underfunded pension plans, but the more involved issues… Read more »

6 years ago

Way to many in the state will get, do get or know somehow who will get the state pensions.