Oberhelman: Pension reform hurting global competition for Illinois businesses

By Marshanna Hester

June 26, 2013 Updated Jun 27, 2013 at 10:05 AM CDT

CHICAGO, Ill. -- In a room full of business leaders in Chicago, the man in charge of running a $66 billion company tapped into his inner weather man.

"I consider the world economy today partly sunny," said Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar Chairman and CEO.

However, Oberhelman said that brightness of competitive opportunity is fading for Illinois businesses.

"Our pension system is in deep trouble and without change, we are not going to be competitive in this state," he continued. "It gets worse by the day. It's unsustainable."

Pension reform, debt and a competitive workers compensation system are fundamental issues he said lawmakers must attack now.

State Senator Darin LaHood took Oberhelman's comments to heart.

He said a recent decision form a conference committee to solve the $100 billion pension crisis is not the answer.

"What we need to do is get the egos out of the way, in particular with the leaders," said LaHood. "The democrats control the senate, they control the house, the control the governorship. We need to have them all come together, put their egos aside and do what's best for the state of Illinois. People are begging for leadership in this state."

Oberhelman said political gridlock makes state and national leaders reluctant to capitalize on opportunities that would create jobs.

Things like infrastructure improvements and trade deals are critical.

Without participation in globalization, he says other countries will gladly step in, a scary thought for Tom Lucek, general manager of City Link.

"If we can't handle our own affairs, what is going to happen with the other 49 states competing with Illinois when other countries like China are competing with the U.S.," Lucek said. "It's got to start here at home and we've got to start taking responsibility for the promises we made and find resources to fulfill them."

After all is said and done, Oberhelman urged business leaders to call their lawmakers, telling them to do what's right to better the economic climate in Illinois.

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