Kelly Responds to Topinka on Downgrade

Chicago, Illinois, August 29, 2012 – It’s official: Illinois has been downgraded yet again by S&P – another vote of “no confidence” for the Land of Lincoln.

Here’s what the Wall Street Journal had to say in an opinion piece today:

In recent years a wave of new reform Governors has washed over the Midwest, but it did skip a few states. Among them is Illinois, which now has the worst credit rating of any state besides California. Voters may want to pay attention.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Illinois bonds to A from A-plus, with a continuing negative outlook. The credit rating agency singled out five years of budget deficits ranging from bad to worse to way worse. It now stands at $44 billion—another national record. S&P was also more troubled than the Springfield political class about $83 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. The legislature ended a special session on pension reform this week without, well, passing any reform.

With the exception of California, Illinois is now the worst in the nation.

How did we get here?

The problems started long before the failed attempts at pension reform this year.

It is Illinois’ corrupt political culture that got us here.  The failed leadership of the establishment parties – Democrat and Republican – got us here.

News of the downgrade coincides with the launch of a shiny new program from Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka called “Take Charge Illinois,” which offers budgeting classes to Illinois residents.  Ironic for a State that can’t manage its own financial affairs and that has neglected funding its pension responsibilities for decades – under both parties I might add.

At first glance, I thought the name of the new program was “Charge Illinois.”

You have to admit, there was good reason for me to think so.

Earlier this month – despite the state’s desperate financial situation – Topinka continued to beat the drum for more money to state-financed social service programs.  “Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly should undo some funding cuts to social service programs that serve the needy,” Topinka said on August 1st.

Spoken like a true Democrat – I mean Republican.

Apparently, someone needs to remind our State Comptroller that Illinois is in trouble. We have an unfunded pension liability of $83 billion. We only have 45 percent of what it needed to pay future retiree obligations as of 2010.  We are all quite needy now.

So Judy Baar Topinka says she is ‘disappointed’ about today’s downgrade announcement?

Maybe she should attend some of those budgeting classes.  It certainly couldn’t hurt.

William J. Kelly is a business owner and a former candidate for Illinois comptroller, who ran against Judy Baar Topinka in 2010.