Candidates for Illinois governor are taking different approaches on how they’d tackle the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.
Illinois has among the most unfunded public sector employee pension liability. State numbers indicate around $151 billion unfunded, but some place like the American Legislative Exchange Council place the debt at $533 billion.
State Sen. Darren Bailey, who’s running against incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, said he’ll use reduced state spending to pay down pensions.
“We’ll find the fat in the budget and we’ll begin to apply that to get this pension situation under control, but first and foremost, I will be sitting at the table with pensioners,” Bailey, R-Xenia, told The Center Square. “I fear that the pension debt may be that large looming problem that will sneak up on Illinois if we continue to ignore it as J.B. Pritzker has.”
Pritzker touts on his campaign website “fully funding pension contributions” as a way to reduce state pension liabilities, “going above and beyond with payments and expanding the employee pension buyout program.”
Pritzker’s campaign did not return requests for an interview.
Cities and towns in Illinois lost more than 104,000 people in the 12 months up to July 1, 2021, according to new U.S. Census data released Thursday. Nearly half of Illinois’ losses were from Chicago.
The report for the entire country shows populations continue to shift to towns in the South and West regions of the United States.
“Arizona, Texas, Florida and Idaho all had several places among the 15 fastest-growing cities or towns,” the report said.
Of the 15 largest cities, New York lost nearly 305,500 people. Chicago lost 45,175 people, which was larger than Los Angeles’ loss of 40,537 people. Chicago is the third most populous city behind New York and L.A..
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is asking the credit ratings agencies to upgrade Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation status.
S&P Global has Illinois at BBB. Moody’s has the state at Baa2. That’s after upgrades from the agencies last year. Fitch has Illinois at BBB-.
“My office is doing everything possible to manage the current backlog of bills and address Illinois’ finances head-on,” Mendoza said in a letter to the agencies that her office announced Monday. “The Illinois Office of Comptroller urges you to consider these positive factors and progress made in strengthening Illinois’ financial position when evaluating Illinois’ creditworthiness.”
Mendoza said in the letter she has paid back recent borrowing from a federal program. Illinois was the only state to borrow from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Fund for a total of $2.6 billion.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has a Wednesday deadline to start turning over documents justifying why it ordered restaurants to limit their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attorney Greg Earl, with Myers, Earl and Nelson P.C., represents Geneva-based FoxFire restaurant, which sued the governor last fall.
“FoxFire is continuing this fight because what happens if another strain, that’s what we’ve heard of, another strain from Europe or South Africa hits and the governor decides to put in another 30-day window,” Earl said.
The governor has already issued 12 months of executive orders related to the pandemic. His most recent order issued Feb. 5 expires March 7.
The state lost nearly 80,000 people in the year that ended July 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data. That’s 22,000 more than were lost the year before and the seventh consecutive loss of population in the past 10 years. Illinois led the nation in population decline for the past decade at 255,000.
Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, told the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday the state has been losing population for years. Without details, he said the state needs to support small and big businesses. He also said leaders need to unite on messaging.
Illinois taxpayers pay more than $2.1 million a month to retired part-time state legislators or their surviving spouses from a fund that’s only 16% funded. The individual monthly payouts are as high as $18,000 per month. Some pensioners aren’t actually retired but still getting paid.
There are 425 people drawing off the General Assembly Retirement System, ranging from $122 a month to $18,000.
At 16% funded, state Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, said GARS is the worst of the state’s five public sector pension funds.