Caterpillar CEO Says Illinois Needs to Fix State Pension System

Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman said the Illinois pension system is in “deep trouble” and must be repaired for its home state to become more competitive.

“It is unsustainable and without some major changes the financial stability of our state is in jeopardy,” he said today during an Illinois Chamber of Commerce event in Chicago.

Illinois has the worst-funded U.S. state retirement system. Its lawmakers failed to deal with a $97 billion unfunded pension liability before wrapping up the legislative session on May 31.

Caterpillar, the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, invested more in Illinois than other states or any countries in 2012, Oberhelman said today. The Peoria-based company has more than 25,000 workers in the state and spends $2 billion on payroll in Illinois each year, he said.

In 2011, Oberhelman told Democratic Governor Pat Quinn that other states were seeking to persuade Caterpillar to relocate and that state lawmakers were creating an “unfriendly” business climate. Caterpillar subsequently said it would keep its headquarters in Illinois.

Also in his speech today, Oberhelman called for the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, a trade deal with Europe and the immigration bill to improve U.S. competitiveness.