Updated: January 2, 2013 6:10AM
We have weighed the evidence. Our verdict: Free “Squeezy the Pension Python.” We also supported that “Free Willy” movement back in the 1990s.
The snake didn’t do it. Gov. Pat Quinn’s cartoon python, designed to draw public attention to Illinois’ pension funding crisis, might have a starring role in this movie, but is not to blame for the fiasco.
Some may think Squeezy is a goofy move
by the Quinn administration, which is using the character as a social
media initiative to “explain” how and why the state must fix its pension woes. In a YouTube video, Squeezy is wrapped around the state Capitol, gradually squeezing state finances as the symbol of the state’s roughly $85 billion long-term pension liability.
We think the cartoon idea is silly, but, who knows, it might just work in bringing public pressure to bear on our legislators, most of whom wait around for House and Senate leaders to tell them what to do. So far, more than 28,000 unique visitors have accessed the Web site, and the cartoon has been viewed 20,000 times, officials said.
Though Squeezy might suggest otherwise, our legislators are to blame for the pension funding mess. For many years, they failed to make the state’s required contributions to the five funds, diverting the cash elsewhere. They also allowed a variety of pension abuses to go on for years.
Legislators kicked the pension can down the street so often it’s likely somewhere in Nebraska by now. But they also didn’t want to alienate the public employee unions that are their handy political allies, so lawmakers wrote all those billions in pension IOUs on your checkbook.
The Legislature is back for its veto session, but the word is that pension reform likely will not occur until January, when lame-duck lawmakers might be more willing to take a stand — presuming that House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, allows them.
Quinn — who now owns the sobriquet of the least popular governor of the 50 states, according to a Public Policy Polling survey — has said he hopes Squeezy can energize the populace on the pension crisis. But the people of Illinois did not mess up the pension system or the tax system that supports it. They won’t be the ones who fix it, either.
Let’s hope Squeezy can come through in the clutch. He might be kind of creepy, but he’s innocent. He doesn’t deserve a bum wrap and needs to be freed.