ATLANTA - Sen. Johnny Isakson said states straining under pension debt should not fear what may sound like a drastic solution: bankruptcy.
The idea has become part of a growing discussion about how states will grapple with their budget woes, some due in large part to pension payments. Isakson said in remarks to the Atlanta Press Club on Monday that bankruptcy is not a term to fear, but a potential means to a solution.
"It's a process though which you rectify a problem," Isakson said.
He says they could follow the example of private sector companies like Delta Air Lines, which filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and emerged two years later.
"It can be done," he said. "That's an example of what the states have got to have as well."
Isakson is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The 66-year-old GOP incumbent was elected to his second term in November.
Headed back to Washington for the State of the Union on Tuesday, Isakson said he plans to sit beside New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for the speech in support of the new spirit of civility taking root in Congress after the shootings earlier this month in Tuscon, Ariz., which gravely wounded House Democrat Gabrielle Giffords and prompted a call for less hostile political rhetoric.
Isakson and Shaheen are planning to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would balance the budget biannually - during odd years, when lawmakers aren't up for election. The Georgia congressman, who has a reputation for diplomacy and reaching across the aisle, said he is looking for bipartisanship in action, not just words.
"I'm willing to participate with anybody who's moving in the right direction," Isakson said. "I like to be a part of solutions. And you don't have to compromise your principles to make sound political decisions."