Illinois treasurer visits Barrington to talk state budget, pensions
State Treasurer Dan Rutherford (left) chats with Brett Schulz and Ed Roney (right) during a visit with the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club on Feb. 21 to discuss the Illinois economy. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:11AM
BARRINGTON — The Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club welcomed Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford to town Feb. 21 to speak about the state’s fiscal situation.
“We can turn Illinois around,” said Rutherford, speaking to a large crowd at The Garlands. “But it’s going to take some tough love in Springfield.”
Rutherford went into great detail about the state’s pension crisis, calling it an ongoing strain on taxpayers. While encouraging urgent action, Rutherford said retirees must keep their earned benefits.
“I would make it abundantly clear that if you’re a state retiree, your pension is protected,” he said.
Instead of raising taxes, he encouraged lawmakers to offer up strategies that do not double down on the already increasing cost of living. He took issue with the income tax increase that was signed in 2011, asserting that the revenue increase did little more than pay down some of the pension debt. He suggested action that takes into account all aspects of the state’s suffocating budget problem, including long-term financial measures.
“This is the ultimate issue that needs to be answered,” said Rutherford of the pension crisis. “It is fair to have a cumulative discussion on everything.”
Rutherford, a Republican, also discouraged any measures that increase businesses’ tax burden, saying tax benefits and credits are crucial in order to bring businesses to the state and ensure existing businesses can grow.
“What needs to happen in Illinois is to bring certainty,” he said.
The state’s outstanding bills, Rutherford reported, are estimated at $9 billion.
“Illinois is a great state,” said Rutherford, citing the state’s diversity, quality schools and cultural institutions. “The problem with Illinois is the leadership in our state today.”
Terry Ennes, a member of the Arlington Heights Rotary Club, said he agrees that the Illinois pension system needs to be addressed in a timely manner.
“The real issue is this pension system,” he said. “This is too good a state for us not to get this revenue issue resolved.”
Lake Barrington resident Wendy Beyer highlighted Rutherford’s comment on the unbalanced nature of public and private sector pensions. Private sector workers, she said, lost their pensions while public employees have remained virtually unaffected.
“He has a firm grasp on the reality of our fiscal situation,” said Beyer of Rutherford’s presentation. “The private sector has been hammered and the public sector wants to be insulated.”