With time running short, House lawmakers have shot down a plan to borrow to make pension payments, making even more difficult their choices on a new budget.

With time running short, House lawmakers have shot down a plan to borrow to make pension payments, making even more difficult their choices on a new budget.


The House voted 59-57 today for Senate Bill 3514, which would borrow to pay about $4 billion in payments owed to the pension systems next year. It needed 71 “yes” votes to pass.


House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, warned her colleagues that while voting to borrow to pay off massive pension debt and obligations wasn't a "great choice," it was much better than the alternative.


"We're flat broke and we do not have close to $4 billion in walking-around money," Currie said. "We're stuck. We're mired in, and I don't see any good options but this."


Currie said if lawmakers don't support this borrowing, the next step is likely to be suspending pension payments until January. That means billions of dollars in payments have to wait six months and forces the systems to sell off assets to cover their costs. The negative result, she warned, over 35 years would be a $36 billion hit to the state.


Opponents, mostly Republicans, were unconvinced, saying more borrowing is a reckless response.


"Somebody pull the fire alarm because this place is on fire," said Rep. Tim Schmitz, R-Batavia.


Both parties took shots at the other for shoddy budget choices. Schmitz said Republicans have been warning about Democrats' overspending for years, while Democrats said the GOP hasn't been about solutions.


"Where have you been? Cowering in the corner! We're waiting. We're waiting," said Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville.


State Capitol Bureau