Mike Lawrence Says '95 Pension Law Could Have Worked

Oct 21, 2013

Mike Lawrence
Credit news.siu.edu

Mike Lawrence spent years as a journalist covering state government and politics before eventually working as the Director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
In between,  he served as press secretary and senior policy advisor to former Governor Jim Edgar.

It was during that time when the governor and lawmakers agreed to pass a pension funding package that set up a long term schedule of payments for the state.  The plan was designed to make sure money was set aside for what was, and remains, an underfunded pension system.  The plan was designed to ensure a 90% funding level within 50 years.   

"There may have been mistakes made. One of them was I feel we should have gone for a Constitutional Amendment to require that scheme be followed," Lawrence said.   "Because what we saw a few years later was Governor Blagojevich and legislative leaders decided they would pass a law that set the other law aside for a while."

Lawrence also answers critics who say the funding ramp was too low in the early years.  He says the state was coming out of a recession and there was a desire to pump money back into other services at the time. 

"The context then was let's begin to invoke a discipline of putting money in for pensions.  We need to take care of some immediate needs, get the state back on it's feet.  We need to restore some of the funding cuts that were necessary to balance the budget," Lawrence said.  

"I think it would have worked if we had stayed with that discipline," he added.

Lawrence joins us on Illinois Edition to look back at that time and the pension problem today: