One of Brandon Johnson’s first moves as Chicago mayor was to buy himself time to address the city’s biggest financial problem: the more than $35 billion owed to its pension funds.
Just days after his May inauguration, Johnson persuaded state lawmakers to shelve legislation that would’ve added billions to the pension debt, while pledging to establish a working group to come up with solutions by October.
Now, the clock is ticking for the progressive Democrat to fix the worst pension crisis among major U.S. cities.
Just as Chicago reels from a spate of shootings and carjackings, inequities exacerbated by the pandemic and high-profile corporate departures, its pension gap creates a financial burden that threatens its recovery and the mayor’s agenda.
The situation makes for a cautionary tale for municipalities across the country facing long-neglected contributions and funding shortfalls. Already, the third-largest U.S. city spends roughly $1 of every $5 on pensions, while more than 80 percent of property-tax dollars go toward retirement payouts.
In 2022, for the first time, the city put in an actuarially calculated contribution for all four pensions funds – a step that helped it shed the junk rating.
Author(s): Shruti Date Singh, Bloomberg News, TNS
Publication Date: 14 July 2023
Publication Site: Governing
A court ruling as soon as this month will help determine the fate of one of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s key plans to ease the massive shortfall in local pension funds across the state. A 2019 law championed by Pritzker would merge about 650 local police and firefighter pensions with assets topping $16 billion into two funds to cut costs and improve returns.
The law set a June 30 deadline for the consolidation of the funds, but many of the local pensions are hesitating or even refusing to merge until they learn the outcome of litigation to block the combining. Three dozen current employees and retirees, along with 18 local retirement plans, filed a lawsuit in February in Illinois circuit court saying the consolidation violates the state constitution.
So far, however, the new Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund hasn’t received any assets and expects to begin getting funds around March, said executive director Richard White. About 44% of the 357 downstate and suburban police funds that were supposed to be merged into the bigger pension plan haven’t even responded to requests for information, White said.
Author(s): Shruti Singh
Publication Date: 2 Dec 2021
Publication Site: Bloomberg Quint
(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department is sending a message to states and cities that the billions in aid from the American Rescue Plan should provide relief to residents, not their governments’ debt burdens.
The department on Monday released guidance on how state and local governments can use $350 billion in funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package. The funds are intended to help states and local governments make up for lost revenue, curb the pandemic, bolster economic recoveries, and support industries hit by Covid-19 restrictions. In a surprise to some, these funds can’t be used for debt payments, a potential complication for fiscally stressed governments that had already etched out plans to pay off loans.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had suggested using some of the state’s $8.1 billion in aid to repay the outstanding $3.2 billion in debt from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facility and to reduce unpaid bills. Illinois was the only state to borrow from the Fed last year, tapping it twice. On Tuesday, Jordan Abudayyeh, a Pritzker spokesperson, said the administration is “seeking clarification” from the Treasury on whether Illinois can use the aid to pay back the loan from the Fed.
The rule could also affect New Jersey, which sold nearly $3.7 billion of bonds last year to cover its shortfall during the pandemic. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, in April had called for Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to use some of the federal aid to pay down the state’s debt.
Author(s): Shruti Date Singh, Amanda Albright
Publication Date: 11 May 2021
Publication Site: Yahoo Finance
Illinois plans to tap the municipal-bond market next week, just days after passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan promises to help the lowest-rated state with some near-term financial stress.
The state is expected to sell $1.26 billion tax-exempt bonds on March 17. That follows S&P Global Ratings’s decision to pull Illinois back from the brink of a junk rating by lifting the outlook on the state’s BBB- rating to stable from negative on Tuesday, citing more federal aid and the start of an economic recovery. The proceeds from the sale will be for capital projects, accelerated pension payments and refunding.
Author(s): Shruti Date Singh
Publication Date: 10 March 2021
Publication Site: MSN (Bloomberg)