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Chicago business leaders launch 'Illinoisisbroke.com' to highlight state money woes

January 28, 2010

SPRINGFIELD --- Chicago business leaders are launching a media blitz Friday to highlight the breadth of the state's dire budget problems under the theme "Illinois Is Broke."

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago says it's pouring about $1 million into a campaign through the November general election to mobilize voters and influence candidates to address the state's fiscal woes.

The non-partisan committee wants the state to reform its method of paying for the massively underfunded state pension systems, including the enactment of a plan that would give lower benefits to new workers.

In addition, the group called for scaling back overall spending. The state's pile of unpaid bills this year reached a record $5 billion.

The state costs for retirement benefits eats into the money that could be used to pay for basic expenses, such as money for schools, the group said.

"At the end of the day, if we don't get it under control, there will be nothing left in the state," said Jim Farrell,  the committee's vice chairman and former top official with Illinois Tool Works Inc.

Farrell and Eden Martin, president of the committee, said they want to involve civic and business organizations across the state in demanding from legislators more fiscal discipline.

The committee won't endorse candidates in Tuesday's primary, but its full-page newspaper ads ask: "Which candidates will be the best ones to fix this mess?"

The committee also is promoting a Web site, Illinoisisbroke.com, stating its case for pension reform and urging citizens to contact their state representatives with calls for a balanced budget.

The group isn't really spelling out how the state should balance its budget, however, and it opposes a tax increase until after reforms are put in place.

Many state budget experts say a tax increase and major reforms or cuts will have to be made with the deficit expected to hit $13 billion.