Pensions

State lawmakers are now formally considering legislation to pool the resources of nearly 650 local Illinois police and fire department pension funds.


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is rejecting a push to take on Chicago’s pension debt. But local pension costs are a growing problem across the state.

Who should pay pension costs for Illinois teachers and school administrators? Currently, the state bears virtually all the cost, leaving the state’s 852 school districts free to negotiate benefits without worrying about the price tag. 

As Statewide listeners heard earlier this month, the education advocacy group called Stand For Children hopes to persuade lawmakers to shift pension costs to districts by integrating them in the new school funding formula. The group’s legislative director, Jessica Handy, calls that an “equity boost.”

This week, we bring you the response from the Illinois Education Association — the state’s largest teachers union — whose lobbyist, Will Lovett, spoke with our education reporter Dusty Rhodes.

An unexpected tax-revenue windfall has so bolstered Illinois finances that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has nixed a plan to reduce pension-payment obligations next year.

A letter to lawmakers Tuesday from the Pritzker administration reported $4.1 billion in individual and corporate income tax revenues in April. That's up 38% from 2018 and $1.5 billion more than initially projected.

Authorities are investigating an anonymous letter threatening the lives of anyone in line to receive state-funded pensions. The letter was mailed to several legislators and at least one public radio station. In big letters, the mailing says “Dead people can’t collect fat state pensions,” and goes on to warn lawmakers and union leaders of death by arson, strangulation or other unspecified means.

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Chicago Tribune

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker delivered his first budget address Wednesday in Springfield.

The governor reiterated his desire to lead the charge to enact a fair tax system in Illinois. He said it would set the state on a path to sustainable growth.

A program designed to curb Illinois’ pension debt is now underway. Early numbers show more Illinois state employees than expected are choosing to take a pension buyout from the state.


Called back into session after a stinging loss at the Supreme Court, Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature decided to go home on Tuesday without passing a replacement pension law despite warnings of financial ruin by the state's GOP governor.

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday from a man who earned a state teacher pension after substitute teaching --  for one day. 

Illinois is losing residents.

Common explanations for why include high taxes, unfriendly business policies or the state's growing pension debt.

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Ad from Citizens For Rauner, Inc.

One of the biggest changes Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed in Wednesday's budget address is making local school districts bear the costs of teacher pensions.

SIU's System CEO says Governor Bruce Rauner's proposal to shift pension and health insurance costs to universities still needs some clarification.
 
President Randy Dunn says the Governor's call to shift employee pension and health insurance costs from the state to universities is not insignificant. But he says the financial blow will be easier to absorb with the replacement funds Rauner included in the spending plan for next year.

University of Illinois media professor Jay Rosenstein has been a longtime critic of the amount of money spent on athletics on the Urbana campus.

Now he’s published a series of articles that show that millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on U of I athletics each year, despite longtime claims to the contrary.

When the Illinois General Assembly approved a budget last summer . . . they also agreed to cut back on the state's contribution to the pension systems.  But, this move might have unintended consequences.

The Illinois state pension funds are among the worst-funded in the nation.  Yet, a new state law allows less money to be put toward that purpose. 

Governor Bruce Rauner signs a bill to protect taxpayers from police pension fund abuse.

The legislation addresses a loophole in current law, that lets retired police officers who return to duty collect two pensions from the same pension fund.

Illinois state Republicans are introducing a new package of bills they say is their effort to end the budget impasse.

 

The Republicans’ proposal includes some of the same ideas that were sticking points for Democrats, including the length of a property tax freeze and how much to raise income taxes.

Details of a massive, bipartisan compromise meant to end Illinois' budget stalemate emerged Monday in the Illinois Senate. But, the plan has been put on hold.

It's a rare occurrence of late: A credit rating agency saying something positive about Illinois' finances. But the comment published Tuesday by Moody's Investor Service was tempered.

Illinois could end up having to put an additional half billion dollars into one of its pension funds next year.

As the name suggests, the Teachers Retirement System is the retirement benefits fund for all Illinois public school teachers outside of Chicago.

The Illinois Teachers Retirement System voted last week to reduce the amount of money it assumes it will make from its investments. The board revised this rate of assumption down to 7 percent from 7.5 percent.

This change means that as lawmakers and the governor are putting together a budget for next fiscal year, they will have to come up with a projected $420 million more than what they might have expected to pay into the retirement system for teachers outside of Chicago. Illinois' total unfunded liability for all its pension funds is pegged at $111 billion. 

Officials with the Teacher’s Retirement System made a decision today that could add another $421 million to Illinois’ annual pension costs.

 

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/IL Public Radio

Governor Bruce Rauner says there are still serious issues facing the state, and he hopes a compromise can be reached so that Illinois can move forward soon.

An overhaul of the retirement benefits Illinois gives state employees, public school teachers and university workers has been the subject of talks between state leaders in recent months. Gov. Bruce Rauner said so Wednesday, but he sounded uncertain as to what will come of it.

(As state lawmakers consider another try at cutting pension benefits for government workers, we revisit this interview from 2016 with former Illinois Senate attorney Eric Madiar)

Illinois continues to have the worst funded government pension systems of all 50 states. Legislators have taken several swipes at reducing those costs. But so far they’ve all been batted away by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Illinois workers get an added bonus once they retire: They don't have to pay taxes on pension or Social Security checks. It's one possible change the state could look to as it hunts for more money.

Illinois is a rare state that taxes income on a regular paycheck, but not on retirement.

Fiscal experts like the non-partisan Civic Federation say as Illinois' population ages, and there are more seniors, the government will increasingly lose out on a source of revenue.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down another attempt to control the cost of government pension benefits.

This time it was Chicago city employees and retirees whose pensions were being targeted. The retirement system for one set of workers is projected to be insolvent in about a decade.

In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly changed the rules, but in Thursday's 5-0 ruling, the Supreme Court found that unconstitutional.

Illinois Public Radio’s Brian Mackey spoke with his colleague Amanda Vinicky about the decision.

It’s been 10 months since the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the state’s last attempt at a pension overhaul. Legislators have yet to decide what to do about Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation pension debt, but they are beginning to weigh their options.

Doing something about Illinois' underfunded retirement systems remains an immediate goal for Gov. Bruce Rauner but despite a loose agreement with a leading Democrat, that plan has stalled.

Springfield may be a desert when it comes to budget deals but it seemed like there was a small oasis -- an agreement between Gov. Rauner and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton on pensions.

  Even with all of its fiscal troubles Illinois will have to put nearly $8 billion into its retirement systems next year -- that's a quarter of the state's expected revenue. Legislative leaders and the governor may finally be poised to begin talking about how they may be able to reduce costs.

Retirees will still get their state pension checks next month, despite the government being unable to pay the different systems that oversee benefits.  But the systems could still face a cash flow problem going forward.

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