The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

December 4, 2013

Even if pensions get fixed, state has work to do

If and when a pension solution is acted upon, expect at least some elected officials to act as if the state’s financial problems are over.

But that’s clearly not the case, and pension reform is just the beginning of a series of issues that need to be resolved with the state’s budget.

Of these issues, pension reform is the biggest and it appears there is a better chance for a solution. House members have been told to return to Springfield for one day on Tuesday after a deal was struck last week by the four legislative leaders.

Reforming the pension system should free up some money in the state’s budget and also bring to a halt recent credit rating downgrades that will cost taxpayers more money every time the state borrows money.

But the state’s budget has a fundamental flaw — most call it a structural deficit. It’s an issue that won’t be solved just by solving the pension crisis.

The problem was pointed out in a bit of news last week — the state’s backlog of unpaid bills is growing again and might reach $9 billion by the end of December. The amount fluctuates because of high revenue and low revenue months. But the fact remains that, at the end of its fiscal year, the state is several billion dollars short of paying its vendors on time.

If you take the budget as a whole, not just the general fund, the state spends more than it brings in. That has been the problem for several years, dating back to before the recession.

The recession undoubtedly made things worse and the state’s slow recovery hasn’t helped. But the state’s budget is fundamentally flawed and until that’s fixed, the financial struggles will continue.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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