The State of Illinois is the latest public entity to face a crisis with its pension system — and it’s the nation’s worst. After years of failing to provide enough money for state workers’ retirement plans, the state’s five pension accounts are short $96.5 billion. The mounting debt has damaged Illinois’ credit rating, limited its ability to borrow and threatens to drain funds from education and other government programs. Options being weighed include higher contributions by employees, less-generous benefits, raising the retirement age and reducing cost-of-living increases and health benefits for retirees. Looking at those hard choices, however, Illinois lawmakers can’t agree on a solution. Meanwhile, the cost of inaction is high: The deficit grows by $17 million per day.

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