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Sometime this month, Illinois probably exceeded $100 billion in pension debt, a sorry milestone in the state's long slog to fiscal hell.

Illinois would be only the second state to reach the 12-digit mark. But California, the previous epic fail, has a much larger tax base and is on the mend.

Pension statistics tend to make eyes glaze over, and the $100 billion moment is an unofficial, back-of-the-envelope calculation. But it's an undeniably big and potentially symbolic number as state legislators wrestle with the shortfall in money owed to current and future retired teachers, judges, state workers and even lawmakers themselves.

“We've been saying, 'Hey, we have almost $100 billion in debt' “ for months, says Illinois Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, a leader in the pension reform effort. Nevertheless, “it's a hell of a number.”

In stacks of $100 bills, that amount would weigh 10 tons. It's enough to buy Boeing Co. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. combined, with a few billion left over for dessert. In the second Austin Powers movie, Dr. Evil stole a nuclear weapon and demanded $100 billion from the whole world.

More important, the ransom for the state's pension debt comes to $7,767 for every man, woman and child living in Illinois, or more than $21,100 per household.
The good news is all the money needed is in a lock-box located somewhere in Springfield.
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