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Tough Decisions

Politicians love using that phrase. Who doesn’t want to embrace the candidate willing to take the heat and make those infamous “tough decisions?”

Well, while the governor in Illinois is busy pandering to various constituencies passing next-to-meaningless legislation, our state continues down the road of state pension hell. It’s simple really. The state’s employees have “defined benefit” plans, and as the benefit plans negotiated locally get better, the state’s underfunded pension plan picks up increasing liabilities that the state is on the hook to somehow pay.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker recognized a problem with the public sector union-government relationship. Negotiating with elected officials is not a fair fight. Sometimes, it’s akin to collusion. Labor is a political player on par with any PAC in business today. You don’t want to get on labor’s bad side. So if some elected officials or political appointees neglect their duties to the taxpayers, big deal.

And if you can negotiate health and retirement benefits with the union, you’re postponing the costs, “kicking the can down the road” as the President is so fond of saying. The good feelings happen now. The bills come later. Much later.

In Wisconsin’s case, the defined benefit timebomb was set to hit over the next five years.

Walker felt that concessions weren’t enough. If state employees could collectively bargain for defined benefits, this battle would only give temporary relief to the taxpayer.

So now the unions are angry. Will Walker survive re-election in 2014? My guess is no. But don’t complain about the dearth of politicians with the courage to make the tough decisions.

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