Backlash Against ESG Investment Of Taxpayer Money Grows, But Illinois And Chicago Carry On – Wirepoints

Link: https://wirepoints.org/backlash-against-esg-investment-of-taxpayer-money-grows-but-illinois-and-chicago-carry-on-wirepoints/

Excerpt:

But those scorned sectors have been the better investments this year, and tech companies have been hammered. Only 31% of actively managed ESG equity funds beat their benchmarks in the first half of 2022, compared to 41% of conventional funds, according to Refinitiv Lipper, as Reuters recently reported. So far this year, 19 of the 20 best-performing companies in the S&P 500 are either fossil-fuel producers or otherwise connected with fossil fuels.

Consequently, ESG funds “have been hit by unprecedented outflows in the market downturn, as investors prioritize capital preservation over goals such as tackling climate change,” wrote Reuters.

Predictably, the issue has become political since state and local officials invest trillions of dollars owned by taxpayers. Republican candidates generally oppose ESG investment of public funds, and five positions — in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada and Wisconsin — flipped from Democratic to Republican in recent races for state auditor, controller or treasurer. Of the 50 directly elected positions, Republicans won 29 and Democrats won 19, according to a recent Roll Call report.

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, however, is among the Democratic officials not backing off on ESG. “We are in it for the long term” is the title of an open letter he recently signed along with 13 other Democratic state financial officers criticizing efforts to stop ESG use of taxpayer money. The letter is astonishingly hypocritical. It says those who want to ban ESG investment of public money are “blacklisting financial firms that don’t agree with their political views.” That, of course, is precisely what ESG does.

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date:19 Nov 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Upgrade will help Chicago navigate a thornier bond market

Link: https://fixedincome.fidelity.com/ftgw/fi/FINewsArticle?id=202210251432SM______BNDBUYER_00000184-0fdf-d34d-a3d7-5fff818a0000_110.1&utm_source=Wirepoints+Newsletter&utm_campaign=845146e7cd-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_895ee9abf9-845146e7cd-30506353#new_tab

Excerpt:

Last week’s Fitch Ratings upgrade of Chicago offers dual benefits for Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration as it pursues passage of a proposed 2023 budget and preps a general obligation issue.

Fitch’s Friday upgrade to BBB from BBB-minus, the city’s first from Fitch in 12 years, and the potential for more good rating news could help sell the City Council on supplemental pension contributions and other pieces of the budget plan viewed favorably by analysts.

The Fitch action and an overall rosier view of the city’s fiscal condition should also broaden the investor appeal of an upcoming $757 million general obligation issue in a more fickle and tumultuous market than prevailed in the city’s last GO offering in late 2021.

Author(s): Yvette Shields

Publication Date: 25 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Fidelity Fixed Income

The Government Pension Reckoning Cometh

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-government-pension-reckoning-cometh-equable-institute-report-11660084312?st=j8a7o7efyyvjtdp&reflink=article_email_share&utm_source=Wirepoints+Newsletter&utm_campaign=24f39fc2e0-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_895ee9abf9-24f39fc2e0-30506353#new_tab

Excerpt:

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System reported a negative 6.1% return for the year, which includes a 21.3% positive return on private equity and 24.1% return on real estate as reported through the second quarter of 2022. What will happen if real-estate prices start to fall and some leveraged private-equity buyouts go south amid rising interest rates?

Collective-bargaining agreements limit how much workers must contribute to their pensions, so taxpayers are required to make up for investment losses. Employer retirement contributions—that is, taxpayers—make up 20% of government worker compensation. That amount has soared over the past decade as pension funds tried to make up for losses during the 2008-2009 financial panic.

A recent report by the Equable Institute found that state and local pension plans now are only 77.9% funded on average, which is about the same as in 2008. But some like Chicago’s are less than 40%. Advice to taxpayers in Illinois: Run.

Author(s): WSJ Editorial Board

Publication Date: 9 Aug 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

CHICAGO CASINO REVENUE DOESN’T ADDRESS 91% OF CITY PENSION DEBT

Link: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicago-casino-revenue-doesnt-address-91-of-city-pension-debt/

Excerpt:

The Chicago City Council approved a casino development in the River West neighborhood. The generated revenue will exclusively pay for pension debt, but only an estimated 9% of what the city needs.

The Chicago City Council approved a $1.7 billion casino in a 41-7 vote May 25. The River West development is being touted as a pension solution, but even the highest projections show only a drop in the bucket.

“This one casino project will pay for approximately 9% of our $2.3 billion pension contribution and reduce the likelihood that the city will need to raise property taxes in the future for pensions,” said Jennie Huang Bennet, chief financial officer for the city.

Author(s): Dylan Sharkey

Publication Date: 31 May 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy

CHICAGO PENSION DEBT DROVE CITY PROPERTY TAXES UP 164% BEFORE COVID-19

Link: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicago-pension-debt-drove-city-property-taxes-up-164-before-covid-19/

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Excerpt:

Chicago residential property tax collections across all units of government in the city were up 164% from 2000 to 2019.

Property taxes paid by homeowners within the city grew nearly 30% faster than property taxes in suburban Cook County during those 20 years. Suburban residential property taxes grew 116% while total residential property tax collections county-wide grew 133%.

While some of Chicago’s increase was driven by new property or growth in existing property tax values, the average homeowner still saw an 85% increase in their bill from 2000 to 2019. Since the record-setting 2015 property tax hike to pay for pension debt, the average Chicago bill has risen 27%. Prior to that hike, property taxes were on a lower trend from 2011 to 2014.

Author(s): Adam Schuster

Publication Date: 28 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy

City Of Chicago Shunning Fossil Fuel Investments. Who Benefits? Russia. – Wirepoints

Link: https://wirepoints.org/chicago-shunning-fossil-fuel-investments-as-nation-struggles-with-higher-energy-costs-wirepoints/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The timing on Wednesday was impeccable. I was looking at the price of oil, which was up four percent that day and about to pass $100/barrel. Energy stocks were up over one percent despite a horrible day for the rest of the market.

That’s when an email popped up with a story in Crain’s headlined “Chicago moving to divest from fossil fuels.”

….

So, with inflation raging, gasoline moving towards $4.00/gallon and Russia murdering Ukrainians with the help of American oil purchases, Chicagoans can take comfort knowing that the city will refuse to invest in oil and other fossil fuel production and thereby “will be sending a message that Chicago is permanently leaving dirty energy in the past and welcoming a clean energy future for generations to come.”

That’s from Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin. She and members of the City Council, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s support, are pushing for an ordinance to mandate that the city divest its funds from fossil fuel companies, as Crain’s reported.

In fact Conyears-Ervin had already made oil and gas divestment office policy. The new ordinance would make the change permanent going forward. Her office has already removed $70 million in fossil fuel-associated bonds from the city’s portfolio, she says.

How wise has it been lately to be shunning fossil fuel investments? Here’s a chart comparing performance year-to-date of the S&P 500 to XLE, an ETF basket of mostly oil and gas companies. While the market in general is down some 10% the oil and gas stocks are up over 21%.

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 25 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

CHICAGO’S $43,100 DEBT PER TAXPAYER DRIVEN BY PENSION DEBT

Link:https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicagos-43100-debt-per-taxpayer-driven-by-pension-debt/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Chicago once again earned a failing grade from Truth in Accounting in their latest Financial State of the Citiesreport thanks to over $38 billion in debt – $43,100 for each taxpayer.

Every Chicagoan would have to send the city that amount just for Chicago to pay the bills it owes. Chicago has just $9.9 billion available to pay $48.6 billion in bills. The Windy City came in 74th out of 75 cities studied in the report, only besting New York City’s massive $204 billion debt with a per-taxpayer burden of $71,400.

The city’s financial failings stem from pension promises the city cannot afford to keep. “Chicago’s financial problems stem mostly from unfunded retirement obligations that have accumulated over the years. The city had set aside only 23 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and no money for promised retiree health care benefits,” the report notes.

Author(s):Justin Carlson

Publication Date: 8 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute

Original Sin (or Pandora’s Box) and Public Finance and Pensions

Link:https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/original-sin-or-pandoras-box-and?justPublished=true

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The kinds of messages that are welcomed are “innovative” in terms of telling you that you don’t have to do the thing you really don’t want to do (put more money into the pensions, promise less, cut back on many things, tax more, etc.)

Yes! You don’t have to fully-fund pensions!

Absolutely, pension obligation bonds will allow you to do really real arbitrage! Don’t worry about the extra leverage!

For sure, you should be chasing the waterfalls of alternative asset classes! You can get those high returns and not worry about extra risk! Otherwise, you’d have to decrease your discount rate!

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 29 Jan 2022

Publication Site: STUMP at substack

Senator Martwick At It Again, Leading Move To Increase Chicago Pension Liability By Billions – UPDATED – Wirepoints

Link:https://wirepoints.org/senator-robert-martwick-at-it-again-leading-move-to-increase-chicago-pension-liability-by-billions-wirepoints/

Excerpt:

Illinois State Senator Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) is pushing ahead with legislation that, according to a Bloomberg report, could increase Chicago’s police pension obligations by another $3 billion in total through 2055. An earlier city estimate put the cost at $2.1 billion. Senate Bill 2105 would do that by removing a birthdate restriction on eligibility at age 55 for a 3% automatic annual increase in retirement annuity.

Where would Chicago get money to cover the additional liability? No answers.

….

Chicago’s police and firefighter pensions already are in utterly abysmal shape, having just 18% and 23%, respectively, of the assets their actuaries say they should have. Together with two other pensions sponsored by the city, Chicago officially reports about $33 billion of unfunded pension liabilities. But using more realistic assumptions, Moody’s estimates the total unfunded liability at $60 billion. Moody’s also reports the city of Chicago’s total debts as a percentage of annual revenues are at 735%, the highest of any major city in the country.

….

It’s as if Martwick is saying, “We rob banks routinely so you might as well make it legal for us to rob banks.”

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 28 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Chicago school district finds buyers after offering higher yields

Link: https://fixedincome.fidelity.com/ftgw/fi/FINewsArticle?id=202201141507SM______BNDBUYER_0000017e-59c7-de0b-a77f-dbef44d30001_110.1#new_tab

Excerpt:

Chicago Public Schools’ $872 million of junk-rated paper met with a more fickle high-yield audience this week, underscoring the district?s vulnerability to market volatility even as it inches closer to investment grade status.

At attractive spreads that offered a healthy yield kick with many maturities offering 4% coupons, the bonds were 2.2 times oversubscribed, CPS said in a statement. More than 40 institutional investors placed orders including some in excess of $150 million each.

The district will pay a true interest cost of 3.51% that ranks among the lowest paid by the Chicago Board of Education over the last two decades. The sale provides $500 million of new money for capital projects and the remainder refunds 2011 bonds.

Author(s): Yvette Shields

Publication Date: 14 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Fidelity Fixed Income

Lightfoot messages indicate how flippantly state government stuck Chicago with higher pension cost – Wirepoints Quickpoint

Link: https://wirepoints.org/lightfoot-messages-indicate-how-flippantly-state-government-stuck-chicago-with-higher-pension-cost-wirepoints-quicktake/

Excerpt:

You may recall earlier this year when the General Assembly passed a bill that Gov. JB Pritzker signed to increase certain pension benefits for Chicago firefighters. The new law is expected to cost Chicago some $850 million and could drop the funded status from what was an already abysmal 18% down to an even-worse 16%.

Well, it appears that Illinois Senate leadership didn’t even bother to talk to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot before mandating that additional burden.

The Chicago Tribune has released Lightfoot email and text messages it obtained on a number of matters. One went from Lightfoot to Senate President Don Harmon. “A courtesy call regarding the fire pension bill would have been helpful, particularly since there is no funding for it,” Lightfoot said. “When that pension fund collapses, I will be talking a lot about this vote.”

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 31 Dec 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints