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State Senate balks on pension borrowing

It looks as if the state Legislature can’t even embrace the best of the worst ideas out there for handling a $13 billion deficit.

A plan to borrow $3.7 billion to make a required payment to the state pension systems stalled in the Senate Thursday after it became clear there weren’t enough votes for passage. The measure passed the House, on a second try, on Tuesday.

Senate President John Cullerton told us he plans to reconvene the Senate in about two weeks. He hopes at least two yes Republican votes will materialize by then.

As of today, no Senate Republican has come out in support of borrowing in a show of solidarity with their caucus. Last year, 11 Republicans voted in favor of pension borrowing.

We appreciate the sentiment. Borrowing is a miserable idea.

But at this late date, Republican intransigence only hurts the state they purport to be trying to save. The ship has sailed on a more responsible budget this spring. By pretending otherwise, Republicans are exposing a more calculated, political agenda to help them in the fall elections.

As we said in today’s paper, it’s hard to rally behind borrowing. But Illinois now has no other choice.

Skipping a pension payment costs much more than borrowing. If the state skips, it could lose at least $20 billion in investment income over 20 years. Borrowing $3.7 billion now would cost about $1 billion.

We urge the Republicans and the two wayward Democrats who don’t support pension borrowing to mull over this simple math for the next two weeks.

Read Thursday’s editorial on pension borrowing here

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