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/

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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

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/

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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

What Illinois didn’t tell you about its celebrated early payment of federal loan – Wirepoints

Link: https://wirepoints.org/what-illinois-didnt-tell-you-about-its-celebrated-early-payment-of-federal-loan-wirepoints/

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In fact, the state originally did intend to pay off the Federal Reserve loan with other federal bailout money from ARPA, the American Rescue Plan Act, according to The Bond Buyer. But the “Treasury threw a wrench in repayment prospects” when the initial federal guidance barred the use of ARPA aid for debt repayment. “The state lobbied for a change in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. But as state tax collections turned rosier, state leaders opted instead to cover repayment with tax collections,” says The Bond Buyer.

The bottom line is that all of us, as federal taxpayers, will bear the cost of the federal bailout, for Illinois and other states, whether through higher taxes to repay the Treasury or inflation created by Federal Reserve money creation. And Illinois will be worse off because only Illinois borrowed extra and incurred interest costs.

So, no, Governor Pritzker, paying back this loan ahead of schedule doesn’t mean Illinois achieved a “level of fiscal prudence not seen in our state for decades.”

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 7 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Comptroller Mendoza claims Illinois paying its bills but needs more federal bailout to avoid a big one – Wirepoints Quickpoint

Link: https://wirepoints.org/comptroller-mendoza-claims-illinois-paying-its-bills-but-needs-more-federal-bailout-to-avoid-a-big-one-wirepoints-quickpoint/

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As for Mendoza’s claim that Illinois is paying its bill, that’s simply not true. The state entirely ignored the hole in its unemployment fund in its current budget and future budget forecasts. In reality, the state will not just have to repay the loan but must also restore the fund to a sound balance, which will probably take another $1.5 billion at least, which was the balance before the pandemic. Nor does Illinois pay its full bill for the 800-pound gorilla, pensions. Year after year it contributes far less to its pension funds than actuaries say is required to prevent unfunded liabilities from growing.

Mendoza supported her claim that Illinois is paying its bills by saying, as she frequently does, that Illinois shrunk its bill backlog by about 80% since its historic high of $16.7 billion during the 2015-2017 budget impasse.

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

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/

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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

Comptroller Mendoza claims Illinois paying its bills but needs more federal bailout to avoid a big one – Wirepoints Quickpoint

Link: https://wirepoints.org/comptroller-mendoza-claims-illinois-paying-its-bills-but-needs-more-federal-bailout-to-avoid-a-big-one-wirepoints-quickpoint/

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Most states have either repaid what they borrowed for their unemployment funds or never borrowed in the first place. Illinois is one of ten states with loans still outstanding. The other states that joined Mendoza’s request to the Treasury are, like Illinois, heavily Democratic — New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Minnesota. A recent research report detailed how federal pandemic bailout money, in general, has gone disproportionately to Democratic states.

As for Mendoza’s claim that Illinois is paying its bill, that’s simply not true. The state entirely ignored the hole in its unemployment fund in its current budget and future budget forecasts. In reality, the state will not just have to repay the loan but must also restore the fund to a sound balance, which will probably take another $1.5 billion at least, which was the balance before the pandemic. Nor does Illinois pay its full bill for the 800-pound gorilla, pensions. Year after year it contributes far less to its pension funds than actuaries say is required to prevent unfunded liabilities from growing.

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2022

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Illinois pension shortfall surpasses $500 billion, average debt burden now $110,000 per household – Wirepoints Special Report

Link:https://wirepoints.org/illinois-pension-shortfall-surpasses-500-billion-average-debt-burden-now-110000-per-household-wirepoints-special-report/

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The $110,000 per household is an average across the entire state, but the precise burden for Illinoisans differs depending on where they live. The debt burden on Chicago’s one million households is larger because of the city’s deeper debt crisis. There, each household is on the hook for $180,000 for their share of state and local retirement debts.

Illinoisans living outside of Chicago, meanwhile, face an overall average burden of $90,000 per household. For comparison purposes, the burdens for Chicago and non-Chicago households, based on official state and local retirement debts, are $95,000 and $53,000, respectively.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Publication Date: 17 Nov 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

One chart tells you much about Chicago’s property tax and its pensions – Wirepoints Quickpoint

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The above is only for taxes that fund the city’s main operating account — its Corporate Fund. Property tax bills in the city include separate charges for the school district and other overlapping taxing districts.

Also, since money is fungible, it’s a bit arbitrary for the city to budget a portion of the property tax to pensions. The city has other revenue sources, though the property tax is the biggest.

Still, the chart makes the point everybody should know: Pensions are a huge and growing crisis. They are the 800-pound gorilla in the room — for Chicago, the state and most of its municipalities.

Author(s): Mark Glennon

Publication Date: 19 August 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Claims that Illinois pension reform would fail at federal level just aren’t true: The case of Arizona – Wirepoints

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Perhaps one of the best examples for successful reform is Arizona’s recent effort, where the state amended its constitution and passed pension reforms to, as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey described it, set its public safety “pension system on a path to financial stability while improving the way it serves our brave cops and firefighters.”

No federal challenges to Arizona’s reforms have been made – which is part of a longstanding pattern nationally. Dozens of states over the past several decades have reformed their public pension systems as problems became apparent over the years. None has been sued successfully under the U.S. Constitution – whether under the contract clause or any other provision – in all that time.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner

Publication Date: 10 August 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Op-ed: Illinois gets its first credit upgrade in 20 years, thanks to $138 billion in federal relief

Link: https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-edit-illinois-credit-upgrade-federal-bailout-20210701-mccvijig6fbuzpuhmc4eorkobm-story.html

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The ratings firm Moody’s Investors Service this week upgraded Illinois’ credit rating one notch to Baa2, a level two notches above junk. It’s a major turnaround given that just one year ago Illinois faced the prospect of becoming the first state to ever be rated junk. In mid-2020, shutdowns ravaged the state’s tax base, Sen. Don Harmon asked for a $42 billion bailout from Congress and the state projected billions in multi-year budget shortfalls.

What changed so dramatically in such a short period of time? Ignore the claims by Illinois lawmakers of their heroic acts of “balanced budgets,” “fiscal discipline” and the like. Even if those claims were true – and they are not – they couldn’t by themselves create such a swing in Illinois’ short-term fortunes.

Credit, instead, the massive $138 billion in federal funds from the multiple COVID relief and stimulus packages – as compiled by the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget – that are now flooding Illinois’ public and private sectors. Those billions have significantly reduced the probability of a bond default – which is ultimately what Moody’s really cares about. 

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner

Publication Date: 1 July 2021

Publication Site: Chicago Tribune

Illinois 2022 budget: The state’s financial cliff will be waiting after the federal largesse runs out – Wirepoints

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Wirepoints calculates that retirement costs will consume 26 percent of the 2022 budget. The state is set to contribute $9.4 billion in General Funds to pensions, pay $777 million in pension bond costs, and pay an estimated $1 billion in retiree health costs.

In total, that’s $11.2 billion of the $42.3 billion budget consumed by retirement expenditures.

On top of the payments from the General Fund, another $1.2 billion in pension payments will come from other budget funds, meaning the state’s total retirement costs will be an estimated $12.4 billion in 2022.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner

Publication Date: 2 June 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

New IRS migration data: Illinois third-biggest loser of people, biggest loser of incomes, to other states in 2019 – Wirepoints Special Report

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Wirepoints’ analysis uses national state-by-state migration data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS reviews tax returns annually to track when and where people move. It also aggregates the ages, income brackets and adjusted gross incomes of filers. 

That data shows Illinois continued to be a national outlier in 2019 when it comes to losing people and the money they earn:

Illinois lost 81,770 net tax filers and their dependents in 2019. Illinois’ losses were the third worst in the country, with only California and New York losing more residents, 165,355 and 152,703, respectively.

On a per capita basis, Illinois also ranked 3rd-worst for out-migration, with net losses of 0.64 percent of its population. Only Alaska and New York fared worse, with losses of 1.02 percent and 0.78 percent of their populations, respectively.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner

Publication Date: 3 June 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints