Friday, September 22, 2017

Illinois Races to Cobble Budget Deal as Downgrade to Junk Looms – Bloomberg

Comment: No, House Speaker Mike Madigan isn't racing for a solution and he calls the shots. His goal is a worsened crisis so he can use the "Governor Junk Bond" theme which Illinois Dems are already rolling out against Rauner.

Lawmakers question leases and building purchase – WAND

The state is months late on lease payments for buildings and being evicted from others. Despite those issues lawmakers want to know why Illinois...

Are Illinois taxpayers finally waking up? – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

"There simply isn't enough taxpayer tolerance, or union cooperation, to bridge these systems to recovery. It's too late."

Cash-strapped Northeastern Illinois U paid big for speakers despite ‘optics’ – Sun-Times

Cash-strapped Northeastern Illinois University — which came under fire for agreeing to pay former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett a fat fee to speak at graduation last month — has paid more than $260,000 to 28 other speakers since 2005, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Madigan has steered Illinois into crisis – Editorial – Northwest Herald

"His leadership has brought us here, and so long as Democrats continue to meekly follow where he leads, we have little hope for real improvement in our state’s fortunes."

Madigan’s goal is to protect his enablers. They don’t deserve it. – Editorial – Chicago Tribune.

"Madigan's math isn't about tax policy. His game is blame-spreading. Madigan wants the forever-in-the-minority Republican lawmakers to own the state's financial catastrophe."

5 things Illinoisans need to know about House Democrats’ budget

Much like other plans in the General Assembly before it, the House Democrats’ budget plan does nothing to structurally reform state government and bring down costs, but instead increases the burden on Illinois taxpayers.

Illinois Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno will resign Saturday – Chicago Sun-Times

Comment: Nice woman but just not up to the job, as we've written bluntly before. Expect a very sincere statement of regret from her Dem counterpart, Senate President John Cullerton.

How Illinois became America’s most messed-up state – CNN Money

Comment: Nice to see some reporters, like this one, starting to use a more accurate number for unfunded pensions -- $251 billion. That's Moody's estimate, and far different from the officially reported $130 billion still commonly cited.

Madigan’s spending plan is unreasonable

Like the “grand bargain,” the Brady plan and the Illinois Senate Democrats’ budget before it, the Illinois House Democrats’ plan relies on more than $5 billion in new tax revenues because it includes no significant structural spending reforms.

Boilermakers offer template for change in Illinois universities, analyst says – Opinion – Chicago City Wire

Indiana's Purdue University offers a great economics class -- not so much for students, but for every comparable Illinois school, a policy analyst said on a Chicago-based talk show recently.

Budget Hopes Dim as Illinois House Property Tax Freeze Fails – Associated Press

A property tax freeze critical to ending Illinois' historic budget jam failed in the House Wednesday and the Republican governor who is demanding the freeze threatened to keep lawmakers in session over the July 4 holiday unless there is an agreement on a spending plan by the end of Friday.

IL Property Tax Freeze fails in House; local educators respond – KFVS

Comment: This bill, SB 484, was a fake freeze anyway -- full of whopping holes and exceptions. Details linked here.

Illinois’ so-called ‘property tax freeze’ legislation exempts Chicago Public Schools and city of Chicago

And it's full of other whopping holes. That gimmick bills like this get any attention from the regular press is a scandal unto itself.

Illinois cities, towns, villages trapped paying ‘Illinois Penalty’ because of state’s poor credit rating | Statewide |

Even without being downgraded to junk status, as is expected if the state enters the next fiscal year without a budget, the Land of Lincoln is already in some bad company, and it’s towns, villages, and cities are trapped paying an “Illinois Penalty.” Comment: Dozens of them will be in bankruptcy, including Chicago, as we told you long ago.

Illinois Is Back in Court Over Medicaid Bills – Bloomberg

Illinois is bracing for another hit to its finances if a judge forces the state to immediately accelerate payments on its $2.8 billion backlog of Medicaid bills as a June 30 deadline to pass a budget approaches. UPDATE: The judge has given until Friday to negotiate the payment.

Democrats’ fake property tax freeze won’t save Illinois’ underwater housing market – Illinois Policy

A four-year freeze riddled with exceptions won’t help Illinois homeowners. Illinoisans need a long-term freeze on local property tax levies and a cap on the tax burden for individual homeowners.

Supreme Court ruling could mean more litigation against religiously affiliated hospitals over pensions, expert says – Cook County Record

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow religiously affiliated hospitals to be included in the religious exemption of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) may lead to further litigation against such organizations in the future.

Illinois Is in a $6 Billion Budget Hole and Flirting With Junk – Bloomberg

Comment: Just our usual reminder that the true deficit is two or three times that "$6 billion." Bloomberg is usually more accurate than this.

Illinois House Democrats propose 4-year property tax freeze – A.P.

Comment: It's just a political stunt -- riddled with holes and exceptions. More on that coming.

Speaker Madigan unveils House budget plan that also relies on massive tax hike – INN

The $36.5 billion budget bill proposed by the House spends about half a billion dollars more than Republican leaders' plan and will rely on at least $5 billion in tax increases, as both the Republicans' and Senate Democrats' plans do.

Budget crisis could snatch solar cash – Crain’s

Recent legislation introduced by Senate Republicans in Springfield with the governor's backing would divert for general uses up to $160 million from ratepayer-generated funds the law allocated to develop solar power in low-income neighborhoods.

Rauner’s reform demands: From 44 to 0 – Illinois Policy

Gov. Bruce Rauner has compromised over and over to strike a deal, to the point of abandoning every reform he once demanded. But no matter how much Rauner gave, House Speaker Mike Madigan never budged.

Talks over boosting Illinois Medicaid payments fail – Reuters

A U.S. judge should order Illinois to pay Medicaid providers about $1 billion a month to ensure medical care continues for the three million...

Madigan Introduces New Set of Demands as Preconditions for Budget Deal – WTTW

“Only because the governor wants to impose that on people who depend upon public schools to education children, OK? It’s part of the extreme right agenda,” Madigan said of Rauner insistence on a property tax freeze.

Day 4: Illinois House and Senate adjourn special session after only 16 minutes – Illinois Policy

Four days of special session have cost Illinois taxpayers an additional $200,000 for less than 80 minutes of work.

Alcohol border sales trouble brewing between Illinois and Indiana – INN

With high alcohol taxes in Illinois and neighboring Indiana showing an interest in relaxing strict alcohol regulations, Illinois distributors fear alcohol sales could move out of state.

What Rauner really walked into – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

"Has state government's fiscal condition worsened under Rauner? Yes, it has, largely because he won't go along with budget gimmicks and because he wants reforms that would give employers confidence in Illinois' economic climate and future governance. Was Springfield a Utopia of comity and balanced budgets in the decades before voters elected him to shake up the town? That's the fiction some rival politicians now peddle."

Illinois Woman to Intern in City Where She Was Found as Baby – Associated Press

A woman known as baby "Crystal Hope" after she was rescued as an infant from freezing to death in an eastern Illinois cemetery has returned to the same city 21 years later to intern at a church.

House looks at school funding, but not budget – JournalStar

Day four of the General Assembly’s special sessions Saturday focused on school funding reform while any deal to actually pay through education next year through a state budget remained out of sight.

5 years in, video gaming ringing up huge numbers – Pantagraph

A total of $44.4 billion has been played on machines, with the state netting $882 million and municipalities $176 million.

Medicaid expansion could end early in Illinois under Senate Obamacare replacement bill – Chicago Tribune

Many low-income adults across the nation could lose Medicaid expansion coverage under the Senate's Obamacare replacement bill — but in Illinois those losses could...

Metra inks $2.7M in contracts to lobbyist firms – Illinois Policy

Comment: We respectfully disagree that this is unwise spending, PROVIDED the lobbyists are good at the federal level, and assuming you look at this from a selfish perspective for Illinois. Billions of dollars can be had for millions properly spent. Sad, but that's the way Washington works if Illinois wants to get its fair share.

Madigan and the Do-Littles – Editorial – Chicago Tribune

Day Two of the Illinois General Assembly's special session wound down Thursday without passage of a state budget. Surprised? Only 24 of the Senate's 37 Democrats showed up. Seventeen House lawmakers missed the day altogether. Rep. Cynthia Soto, D-Chicago, wasn't in Springfield because she was presenting her credentials to the Cook County Democratic Party. She'd rather be a commissioner on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and she wants the party's endorsement.

Day 2: Illinois House and Senate adjourn special session after only 23 minutes

Less than 43 minutes of work over two days has cost Illinois taxpayers $100,000.

Illinois legislators meet for 2nd day of budget session – NWI Times

Comment: And they did nothing but some virtue signalling and grandstanding -- voting on a bunch on nonbinding resolutions unrelated to the budget.

Illinois’ fiscal mess is all too familiar to Californians – Orange County Register

"If we don’t get a handle on our debts, without bleeding employers and individual taxpayers dry in the process, Illinois could be our future as well."

Black exodus accelerates in Cook County, census shows – Chicago Tribune

Between 2015 and 2016, more than 12,000 black residents left Cook County, an increase from the previous year when about 9,000 residents left. The greater Chicago area, which for the census includes parts of Indiana and Wisconsin, has lost nearly 46,000 black residents since 2010. That exodus is larger than in any other metropolitan area in the country.

$50,000 for 7 minutes of work today for Illinois House – Illinois Policy

The Illinois House of Representatives met for seven minutes and 30 seconds on June 21 before adjourning, failing to consider any budget proposals – and costing Illinois taxpayers $50,000 for less than 10 minutes of work.

Backlog of human rights cases expected to continue after lawmakers block Rauner executive order – INN

Before leaving town last month, lawmakers didn’t give Gov. Bruce Rauner spending authority to pay down the backlog of bills the state owes. However, they did take action to block the governor from addressing the the backlog of human rights cases.

Lucci: Forget the unemployment rate, Illinois is in a depression – Opinion – INN

Illinois economic activity has grown at a slower rate than what occurred during the worst decade of America’s Great Depression, from 1930-1939.

In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn’t China. It’s too many jobs. – The Washington Post

In Kosciusko County, Indiana, the lack of laborers not only threatens to stunt the growth of these companies, experts warn, but it could also force them to decamp their home town in search of workers.

The Illinois Capitulation – Wall Street Journal

"Gov. Bruce Rauner cries uncle on taxes and economic reform."  

Puerto Rico And The Mess To Come – Daily Caller

"Why should you care about what happens to the economy of an island you’ll probably never visit? Because...the problems in Puerto Rico may well visit a state near you soon...."

Report: Illinois is home to most expensive apartment rentals in Midwest – INN

The housing wage, as the National Low Income Housing Coalition calls it, is what someone would need to earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It varies from more than $23 per hour in Cook County to $12.60 in Adams County along the Mississippi River. The statewide average is $20.87, more than $4 per hour more than Illinois' closest neighbor, Wisconsin.

Township businesses file class action lawsuit after skyrocketing property taxes – INN

Business property owners in a downstate community have filed a lawsuit with the county after their property taxes skyrocketed by up to 400 percent in one year.

Governor candidate Biss is a traitor, say private-equity investors – Crain’s

Dan Biss is a shamelessly opportunistic, lying rat. As one who knows him, worked in the venture capital community on his previous work, and is a constituent of his, I can attest directly. He knows full well he's peddling nonsense, exploiting misconceptions of the far left.

What do Illinois and Hawaii have in common that’s causing residents to flee? – The Hill

"The common denominator here is bad policy and lack of opportunity, whether in paradise or the Land of Lincoln."

Democrats strangely mum on Berrios – Opinion – Chicago Tribune

"Let me know when the Democrats who represent the areas hardest hit, who claim to be the voice for the little guy, hold Berrios...

State rep calls for forensic audit of Illinois’ $15B in unpaid bills – Illinois Review

Skillicorn said that it is appropriate for an immediate suspension of the payment penalty under the Prompt Pay Act, which will save Illinois taxpayers...

Illinois is Collapsing: It’s Coming Everywhere – Market Ticker

"It was obvious that Illinois was going to fail as a state before I left in 2000.... Go ahead folks, keep pretending. It won't work...

Workforce dropout causes Illinois unemployment to fall slightly – Illinois Policy

A new report from the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows Illinois had a modest net gain of 2,400 jobs in May, but still...

Is Congress paving way for Illinois to file Bankruptcy? – Illinois Leaks

"According to unnamed sources, we have been told that the US Congress is working towards passage of a bill that would allow Illinois and...

Illinois job providers plan to largely hold steady with their employment rates – INN

  Employment company Manpower released its quarterly employment projections for July through September. Of the companies they polled in Illinois, almost three quarters don't plan...

Berg: Where have all the new homes gone? – Opinion – INN

Since the Great Recession, Illinois new housing starts plunged 75 percent, the worst in the nation. States the housing bubble hit hardest – Nevada,...

IDOT to put brakes on roadwork due to state budget impasse – Chicago Sun-Times

    The Illinois Department of Transportation will shut down roadwork statewide if lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the end of the month, officials announced...

Environmentalists Demand Trillions in Lower Returns for Pensions – National Review

Apart from being impractical, since four of our nation’s Fortune 500 companies are in the energy industry, divesting from fossil fuels would be a...

Illinois a joking matter no longer – Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

From an econ prof in Indiana: "It is time to stop joking, as the situation has become much more grim.Chicago is the nation’s third...

Illinois’ economic growth is worse than during the Great Depression – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ total state economic activity has increased by only 4 percent since 2007, which is lower than the U.S.’ 10 percent GDP growth during...

Illinois Budget Fight Goes Back To Court(s) – Peoria Public Radio

Up Tuesday are state employees. Normally their pay must be appropriated by the legislature — but when that didn’t happen in 2015, the AFSCME...

Raging Contagion – Opinion – The Bond Buyer

"Whether contagion has been having a very direct effect is challenging to discern. But, I have witnessed more open speculation about the topic than...

Illinois Democrat Introduces “COVFEFE Act” – ZeroHedge

The bill introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley seeks to amend the Presidential Records Act to include the term "social media" as a documentary material...

The Monk Who Left the Monastery to Fix Broken Retirement Plans – The New York Times

“It’s been a very circuitous journey to find out what my calling is, what is being asked of me in the truest sense, that will bring all of my being,” he said. “This requires all of my mind, heart and devotion. And that is a beautiful thing.”

Another nail in the fiscal coffin – State Journal-Register

The state is paying in full for pensions and debt service, and also a large part of K-12 spending. Any of those areas could be possibilities for coming up with money to meet the latest court order. Or maybe they’ll figure out some other way to shift money into payments for Medicaid.

How Illinois became America’s failed state – Politico

Comment: We post this for the purpose of showing the perspective of Illinois' dumbest and most biased reporter, Natasha Korecki. She expects you to believe that our problems boil down to a personal feud between Rauner and Madigan, and in that, it's pretty simple -- Rauner is the villain for not raising taxes.

Illinois manufacturers’ default rate doubles year over year – INN

A Thomson-Reuters poll of small manufacturing businesses shows Illinois' manufacturers were approved for 3.4 percent fewer loans in April 2017 than the same month last year. The national average was a 1.2 percent decline. At the same time, manufacturers have doubled their rate of defaults in the past year.

Illinois spreads reach high-yield levels – $ – Bond Buyer

Not waiting for credit rating downgrades, Illinois general obligation bonds are already trading at junk bond levels.

Illinois lawmakers pass legislation requiring financial impact statements on executive orders, ignore cost of bills they pass – Illinois Policy

House Bill 2379 would require fiscal impact statements on every executive order. However, less than 3 percent of bills enacted into law in the...

The Wemstroms: Illinois needs a modern tax system – JournalStandard

Comment: In case you didn't know, this is what morons look like, and this is what they write: "The new budget needs to raise taxes: income tax, an automotive gas tax for transportation, a separate carbon tax, a financial transaction tax, retirees’ income tax and an obesity tax on soda."

Illinois bonds hit hard after U.S. judge’s Medicaid ruling – Reuters

llinois general obligation bond prices plummeted and yields soared in the U.S. municipal market on Thursday, a day after a federal judge ordered the cash-strapped state to find more money to pay Medicaid providers.

Chicago’s newest billionaire, 31-year-old Rishi Shah, is self-made – Sun-Times

Rishi Shah, who quit college to pursue entrepreneurial dreams, became a billionaire last week. And his business partner, Shradha Agarwal, is close behind. Outcome Health installs touchscreens in doctor’s offices and uses specialized software to help physicians and patients make treatment decisions. Health care marketers and pharmaceutical companies use them too.

Federal judge: State can’t keep skimping on Medicaid while fully funding worker pay, debt obligations – Cook County Record

Comment: The order sure seems to suggest that the payment priority that supposedly protects the state's general obligation bonds is not the end of...

Illinois’ pension debt grew by $25B during 2011 income tax hike – Illinois Policy

Despite $30 billion in extra tax revenue, the politicians who passed Illinois’ 2011 income tax hike failed to solve Illinois’ pension crisis or pay...

lllinois lawmakers preempt potential denial of pre-existing conditions – INN

Illinois lawmakers are getting out ahead of the possibility that Congress may allow health insurance companies to turn away people with pre-existing conditions. But...

Renegotiation means ‘sweeping changes’ for state college savings plan – Sun-Times

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs on Tuesday unveiled what he called “sweeping changes” coming to Bright Start, seeking to allay investor fears.

Coercion? Or free choice? – News-Gazette

An Illinois case has the potential to change the legal landscape for public employees.

Illinois has the worst personal income growth in the U.S. – Illinois Policy

Illinoisans have experienced income growth of only 0.8 percent per year from the end of 2007 to the end of 2016. This leaves Illinois...

Janus case could bring Right to Work to public sector workers in all 50 states – Illinois Policy

The public employees in Janus v. AFSCME have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the state of Illinois from forcing workers to pay...

Supreme Court sides with Illinois hospital in pension dispute – ABC News

Religious hospitals don't have to comply with federal laws protecting pension plans, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that affects retirement...

Illinois years behind in scoring state science tests; officials blame budget – Chicago Tribune

Three years after Illinois made a bold change in how science would be taught and tested, little is known about how students have performed...

Governor’s Turnaround Agenda seeing behind-the-scenes successes – INN

With $14 billion in unpaid bills, it's tough for Illinois taxpayers to get excited about new computers and updated websites. But that's where the successes of the Turnaround Agenda are.

Illinois owes over $250 billion in pension debt – Illinois Policy

Moody’s Investors Service cited Illinois’ $250 billion in pension debt and the lengthy budget impasse as reasons for its one-notch credit downgrade.

As Cash Flow Tightens, Medicaid Ruling Looms – NPR IL

A court hearing scheduled for Tuesday has the potential to shake up Illinois' already-precarious financial situation. Organizations that run the state’s Medicaid program are...

Blue Cross customer treatment examined, 27 years after last report released – Chicago Tribune

Illinois is conducting a broad review of how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois treats consumers — 27 years after regulators last released...

Williamson treasurer calls property taxes a puzzle with no real solution – SW IL News

As much as anyone, Williamson County Treasurer Brinson Venable believes taxes are too high in Illinois, but he also wonders how some towns and cities will survive if a property tax freeze is enacted.

Bill preventing pension double dipping awaits Rauner’s signature – Illinois Policy

House Bill 418 would prevent retired police officers from double dipping in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which has placed a burden on taxpayers...

Illinois Senate’s education finance bill bails out Chicago, fails at reform – Illinois Policy

Senate Bill 1 provides a $215 million annual pension bailout and other carve-outs worth hundreds of millions of dollars to CPS.

NIU president’s alleged ethical lapses too serious to overlook – Editorial – Sun-Times

If a scorching report by a state ethics watchdog is correct, Doug Baker should no longer be president of Northern Illinois University.

Former Illinois senator wants money from pay increases he missed – Chicago Tribune

Michael Noland, a Democrat from Elgin, contends that not getting the raises violates a provision in the Illinois Constitution that bars changes to a lawmaker's pay during a term in office.

Illinois should make public university tuition more affordable – not subsidize inflated costs with tax dollars – Illinois Policy

House Bill 1316 would force taxpayers to help fill the gap between high tuition costs and student affordability. The bill would increase government spending,...

Fact-checking Madigan: Rauner’s agenda is packed with budgetary items – Illinois Policy

The truth is it’s impossible to pass a budget without making decisions about Rauner’s original reform agenda. The “Turnaround Agenda” is full of direct...

Kadner: Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes – Opinion – Sun-TImes

"Property taxes are high because the state has failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to fund public education."

St. Clair, Madison counties home to multimillion-dollar property tax slush funds – Illinois Policy

Property taxes are set to increase in Madison and St. Clair counties, and local taxpayers should know that through TIF districts, politicians divert tax...

Berg: Madigan, Cullerton will hit the pension lottery – INN

After just one year of retirement, Madigan’s annual pension will shoot up to more than $130,000. And it will continue to grow by 3...

After Caterpillar, where does Peoria go from here? – JournalStar

So what happens to a company town when the company leaves town? That’s being pondered in Peoria after Caterpillar announced plans to move its world headquarters to the Chicago suburbs.  

Illinois House passes $15 per hour minimum wage bill – Northwest Herald

It’s unclear what will happen if Senate Bill 81 makes it to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. If other regulations are included, it’s possible Rauner...

Illinois fiscal collapse began long before the 2-year budget impasse – Illinois Policy

Illinois’ budgetary mess preceded Gov. Bruce Rauner’s tenure, with years of gimmicks, borrowing and broken promises.

Illinois Dems move Left more than ever during session’s last days – Illinois Review

During the concluding days of the current legislative session, the Democrat majority voted to make state income taxpayers pay 33 percent more than they do now. But they also successfully passed out of the House and Senate some of the nation's most socially-radical public policy bills, including the following:
  • Making every publicly-funded school, pre-school, nursing home and medical facility places for criminals in America illegally to avoid deportation and seek protection from law enforcement;
  • Forcing every business in Illinois to raise their employees' minimum wage to $15;
  • Automatically registering persons to vote that apply for drivers' licenses;
  • Expanding taxpayer health care coverage (such as for Medicaid recipients and state workers) unrestricted abortion coverage.

J.B. Pritzker sought political office from Blagojevich, 2008 FBI wiretaps show – Chicago Tribune

Phone calls secretly recorded by federal agents — never before publicly revealed — captured that exchange and other conversations between the influential Democratic donor and the then-governor discussing politics, their futures and the ramifications of Blagojevich's authority to fill the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

With spotlight on Semaj’s death, DCFS director resigns – Sun-Times

As his agency faces another crisis, George Sheldon on Wednesday resigned as head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

OEIG report says president ‘mismanaged’ NIU – Rock River Times

An Office of Executive Inspector General investigation into Northern Illinois University’s hiring and spending practices has found that President Doug Baker routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates.

Illinois Caregiver System Hangs By Thread, Provider Warns – CBS Chicago

A bill now before lawmakers would require the state to increase Medicaid reimbursement so that caregivers could make $15 an hour. It passed the...

That $12,000 in wasted taxpayer money just the norm in Illinois – Editorial – Sun-Times

In Illinois such wastefulness is normal, going largely unnoticed and unpoliced, because our state has an absurdly large number of local government entities, some...

Illinois income tax hike to 5% opens door for a progressive tax hike – Illinois Policy

An income tax hike to 5 percent makes a call for a progressive tax system during the 2018 gubernatorial race a much easier sell.

Downstate tourism thriving according to state director – WJBC

Jobe said 110 million domestic visitors were recorded in Illinois in 2016, up by one million from 2015. That resulted in about $2.6 billion...

Most Illinois high school students will graduate, few are ready for college – INN

Only 25 percent of graduating seniors in 2016 showed college readiness in all four core subjects on the ACT," ISBE says. "That's English, math,...

McCaleb: Lawmakers travel to Oz for brain drain solution – Opinion – INN

"On Memorial Day, something I can only describe as surreal happened. On the House floor, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, actually acknowledged one of the...

World Economic Forum Predicts ‘$224 Trillion Retirement Gap’ (Seriously) – The 401(k) Specialist

The report is the latest study to calculate the impact of aging populations on the pension gap in the world’s six largest markets, which include the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

Illinois payment strains underscored by court case – Fidelity Investments

From The Bondy Buyer's Yvette Shields: Illinois officials told a federal judge last week that moving payments to Medicaid providers and insurers up the payment chain could endanger other state priority payments like debt service.

New Report Shows Personal Injury Lawyers Gaming the System for Profit – Illinois Review

Illinois was ranked the third-worst state in the country for legal fairness, according to a report from the respected Harris Poll company, and our...

Mike Keiser knows where golf is alive and well. (It’s not Illinois) – Crain’s

Golf is a struggling business in Illinois. But Wisconsin "is now the new mecca of golf. With the U.S. Open, it's arrived in the big time."

Illinois has higher gas prices than national average, all neighboring states, heading into Memorial Day weekend – Illinois Policy

Motorists in Chicago face higher gas prices than the national and state average, due in part to the multiple layers of taxes heaped upon...

Rep. Ives blasts House Dems, says Illinoisans don’t want massive tax hike – INN

State Rep. Jeanne Ives on Sunday blasted her Democrat colleagues in the House for using a procedural tactic to remove her as chief sponsor of a Senate bill to raise $5.4 billion in taxes on Illinoisans.

Poll underscores loss of hope for unemployed in Illinois – Chicago City Wire

Across the country, 33 percent of those without work say they have more or less given up, a decrease from 40 percent in 2016, but in Illinois, the rate of relative hopelessness regarding employment has gone from 33 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016 to 44 percent this year. The statistics come from a survey conducted by Harris Poll.

Illinois Senate Democrats twerk taxpayers with latest budget attempt – Belleville News-Democrat

"It is just a performance." Illinoisans are overwhelmingly against what is coming out of the statehouse. The state budget impasse is worrying 94 percent of Illinoisans and 67 percent said their families have been directly impacted, according to a new poll of voters by the Illinois Policy Institute. Nearly two-thirds are against raising the state income tax. Half want cuts as the only tool to close the budget gap and half are against an income tax hike even with property tax relief.

‘Termination Of A Race’: Black Unemployment At Crisis Levels, Leaders Say – DNAinfo Chicago

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was joined by city, county and federal politicians Friday pledging to focus on improving the issues put in stark relief...

Majority of Illinois Cities Are Shrinking – Illinois Policy

While major headlines broke over news that Chicago was the only one of America’s largest 20 cities to shrink from July 2015 to July...

‘Secret’ Sanctuary State Bill Set To Pass Illinois Legislature – Daily Caller

llinois politicians have devised a legislative euphemism, the “Illinois Trust Act,” to keep the bill hush-hush. In fact, ICIRR organizers say they intentionally avoided...

Six Terrifying Graphs That Summarize America’s Public Pension Crisis – Zero Hedge

"Illinois nearly completed the coveted state, county and city trifecta but was narrowly 'bested' by Wayne County, Michigan."

Senate passes first-in-nation financial tax, despite government report saying it will cause mass evasion – INN

Less than an hour after Democrats in the Illinois Senate endorsed a budget that would raise income taxes, they voted to become the only state in the nation to impose a new 20 percent tax on financial managers.

Comment: This may be the stupidest, most suicidal bill the Illinois Senate has ever passed. It would destroy Illinois' financial services sector. See our earlier article on the bill linked here.

Health insurers stiffed by budgetless Illinois take plea to federal court – Crain’s

A federal judge could decide today whether insurers collectively owed more than $2 billion by the state of Illinois can move to the front...

The Scorecard: The damaging cost of a retroactive income tax hike – Opinion – INN

The income tax increased passed yesterday by the Illinois Senate would nearly double the impact on taxpayers in 2017, because they would have to...

Fact-checking BGA’s claims on ‘low-spending’ Illinois – Illinois Policy

While the Better Government Association has claimed Illinois’ budget contains no fat to trim, a deeper analysis reveals the state has many areas of expensive inefficiency to reform in state and local government costs, the Medicaid program and K-12 education.

Illinois Senate Democrats pass $5.4B tax increase – Illinois Policy

Each Illinois household would have to pay an additional $1,125 more in taxes each year, on average, under the Senate's tax-hike plan.

Next month’s electricity price hike is just the start – Crain’s

The substantial hike in Northern Illinois' cost of electricity beginning next month is just the beginning of the increases for years to come.

Illinois’ middle class shrank over the last 40 years. Here’s why. – Chicago Tribune

The shrinking of the middle class has come as the middle-income jobs that used to form its bedrock have eroded. In 1980, nearly 20 percent of middle-income heads of household were working in office and administrative support, and that declined to 15 percent by 2015. The sharpest decline has been in production, which includes manufacturing.

Government financial disclosure: words matter too – Truth in Accounting

Do governments in weak financial condition exhibit unclear writing in their annual financial reports, compared to governments in relatively good condition? Illinois has dug a significantly worse financial hole for itself than Indiana.  Coincidentally, or not, the latest letter of transmittal for Illinois shows a higher passive verb frequency and a higher comma/sentence ratio than for Indiana.

New focus on Illinois swap terms amid threats to state’s bond ratings – Fidelity

A downgrade to junk would mean Illinois faces termination events on some swaps tied to $600 million of floating-rate paper while any rating cut would raise its interest fees.

Puerto Rico’s Bankruptcy: Template For Other Troubled Cities [and for Illinois] – Forbes

From a fixed income money manager: "I project this bankruptcy will become the template for all the cities, counties and a few states whose...

Paper: State of Illinois’ middle class shrinking – Illinois News Bur.

A new report from a University of Illinois expert in urban development and local economies found that the share of middle-income households in the...

SB 1905 designed to ban local Right to Work in Illinois – Illinois Policy

The Illinois House Labor and Commerce Committee has passed a bill to prohibit municipalities in Illinois from enacting local Right-to-Work measures. The bill now...

Harvard Study: It Pays to Write Well

"Overall, our evidence supports the notion that firms can meaningfully increase their market value by increasing the readability of their annual reports. By the...

Poll: More jobless Illinoisans have stopped looking for work than in other states – INN

A poll done for Express Employment Professionals shows 44 percent of Illinois job seekers they polled had given up on the search. The national...

Studies: High corporate, property taxes stunt job growth in Illinois – INN

An April Anderson Economic Group study ranked the tax burdens on businesses for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Illinois businesses paid...

Illinois’ Medicaid Problems Could Jeopardize Money For Schools, State Workers, Attorneys say – WBEZ

Attorneys for the Illinois state government say payments to schools, services for foster children and even state employees could be in jeopardy if the...

State of Illinois’ Springfield utility bills piling up again – Associated Press

Illinois owes about $3.5 million in past-due payments to City Water, Light and Power, City Water, Light and Power.

To create jobs and grow the economy, Illinois needs a modern communications law – Opinion – The Southern

Rob Karr is the Illinois Retail Merchants president and CEO. Greg Baise is the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association president and CEO. Todd Maisch is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.

You’ll pay more to cool your house this summer – Crain’s

ComEd's power price beginning June 1, which the utility filed yesterday with state regulators, will be 9 percent higher than it is now. The current charge of 6.32 cents per kilowatt-hour is going up to 6.89 cents.

Lone ‘no’ vote on homestead exemptions for various groups says it’s not reform Illinois needs – INN

“It’s like that ball. You squeeze in one place and it pops in somewhere else. It’s going to increase the tax burden on commercial...

Illinois Punished by Market as Deadline Nears Amid Fighting – Bloomberg

Bondholders are demanding yields of 4.49 percent on Illinois’s 10-year bonds, some 2.45 percentage points more than those of benchmark tax-exempt debt. That’s the...

Nonfarm payrolls remain 25,600 below prior peak – Unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in April – IDES

“Illinois did not participate in the nation’s job growth in April,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “Furthermore, the decline in the unemployment rate was largely due to a drop in the labor force, not more people working.”

Civic Committee releases budget plan that includes $8B revenue package – Sun-Times

Note that this is from the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which is different from The Civic Federation. The Civic Committee's report on this proposal is linked here.

New report gives apples to apples look at Rauner Agenda – INN

A new report from Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute confirms what a lot of Illinois residents already know. Property taxes in...

6 key reasons to say ‘no’ to Flynn Currie, Durkin pension bills – Illinois Policy

Illinois state Reps. Barbara Flynn Currie and Jim Durkin have introduced pension bills that are unfair to new and current workers, are potentially unconstitutional,...

Kennedy-led company used Madigan’s firm for property tax refunds – Illinois Policy

Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Kennedy is advocating for “a property tax system that can’t be abused by the wealthy and insiders.” But new documents suggest...

Berg: State lawmakers don’t really care about the budget – Opinion – INN

“I have an announcement,” Chicago Democrat Barbara Flynn-Currie said the afternoon of May 10 on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives, “perk...

Illinois’ unpaid bills jump to $14.3B – Illinois Policy

New numbers from the Illinois comptroller’s office show that Illinois’ unpaid bill backlog has climbed to more than $14 billion. In August 2016, Moody’s...

Illinois House Leaders Propose Public Pension Changes – IL Public Radio

Illinois House leaders of both parties have introduced legislation to change the state’s public pension systems. But some constitutional lawyers say it has little chance of getting through the Illinois Supreme Court.

Illinois Looks to Marijuana to Plug Huge Hole it Its Budget – Entrepreneur

Tax revenues generated by legalized marijuana, plus shedding the huge costs of arresting and jailing nonviolent offenders, are powerfully appealing to fiscally beleagured states.

Rep. Rodney Davis’ bill would end Jesse Jackson Jr. workers’ comp pay – Sun-Times

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., is filing a bill on Wednesday to ban former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., from collecting about $100,000 a year in workers’ compensation —for an unspecified job-related injury — because he was convicted of looting his campaign fund

Senate’s ‘grand bargain’ bills to be separated as standalone bills – INN

The state Senate’s so-called grand bargain of interconnected bills unveiled earlier this year as a way to end the long-standing budget impasse is set...

Education burdened by unnecessary administration costs – Opinion – Daily Herald

Administrators have taken over education. Many district administrations -- over and above what already exists at the school level -- are simply unnecessary. They...

Senate Dems to push forward on ‘grand bargain’ – Associated Press

Prediction: The grand bargain won't make it through the full General Assembly. Perhaps a stopgap, partial budget will pass, but a downgrade of Illinois bonds to junk status likely will happen in June.

Illinois lawmakers attempt to bail out Chicago Public Schools yet again – Illinois Policy

State lawmakers’ latest bill not only forces a failed “evidence-based” education funding program on Illinois, but also bails out Chicago Public Schools.

Another Illinois manufacturer leaves for Wisconsin – INN

Prestige Metals' owner John Annessi made the call to move his business from northern Illinois to Wisconsin. The move was less than 10 miles....

House Democrats add their own demands to Illinois budget talks – INN

Democrats in the Illinois House on Tuesday attached their own list of demands to budget negotiations in Springfield. Top Madigan lieutenant state Rep Lou...

McCaleb: After Tuesday’s press conference, it’s back to the sidelines, or the dugout, for House Democrats – Opinion – INN

At a head-scratcher of a press conference Tuesday morning, Democratic leaders in the House – not the top leader, mind you – made clear...

Political cowardice on workers’ compensation is destroying blue-collar jobs – Illinois Policy

Illinois is home to the highest workers’ compensation costs in the region, and the weakest manufacturing recovery. New research details pain points and ways...

Illinois last in U.S. in new home construction; builders say high property taxes hurting – INN

Illinois used to see 45,000 new homes built each year. Bill Ward, director of the Illinois Home Builders Association, said crews are lucky to...

4 insurers out of running for Rauner’s Medicaid overhaul – Chicago Tribune

On Monday, the state released a list of insurers that responded to a request for proposals to be part of Rauner's re-imagined Medicaid managed care program. In Medicaid managed care, private insurers administer Medicaid benefits, whereas the state administers benefits in traditional Medicaid.

Lawmakers want answers from state child welfare officials – Chicago Tribune

Some Illinois lawmakers are demanding answers from the Department of Children and Family Services about recent child abuse deaths and new policies that push investigators to speed up abuse and neglect investigations.

Charleston legislator targeted by vandalism; union connection suspected – East Central Reporter

“Besides busting up all the equipment they could find, whoever did this made a point of spray painting things like “‘Trump’ with a ‘not’...

Realtors: Most Illinois homes worth less than their value 10 years ago – INN

"I have one house listed at $169,900 with a tax bill of $9,200," a Lake County Realtor said. "Their tax payment is bigger than their house payment."

The Pension Storm Cometh – The American Interest

"The numbers are so grim that it is hard to see how America gets through the next recession and its aftermath without a wave...

Saving Illinois starts with changing its Constitution, groups argue – Sangamon Sun

Amending the Illinois Constitution is the only way to reform policies that have destroyed the economic and political landscape of the state for decades, according to An Illinois Constitution for the 21st Century, a book co-published by the Illinois Policy Institute and Liberty Justice Center.

Stanford’s Hoover Institution Releases 2017 Study Highlighting Unfunded Liabilities Of State And Local Governments

See our own article linked here on what this study says about the staggering pension liabilities of Illinois, Chicago and Cook County.

Legislator: Bill Would Trigger $2.2B in Illinois Wind Energy Projects – WTTW

Comment: You shouldn't believe a single word in this or anything else coming out of the renewable energy sector and its proponents. They are...

Illinois a good state to be a cop – INN

"When it comes to pay, when it comes to pensions, when it comes to benefits, Illinois really does set their police officers up for...

‘Nearly bankrupt’: A multi-part review of how the ACHA ended up broke: Retirement contracts – The Southern

In a heartbreaking letter, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently told the Cairo school district that there’s just not a lot of...

Jobless giving up, so are rest of Illinois residents – Editorial – Belleville News Democrat

Unemployment is an important measure of an economy’s health, but it is only part of the picture. Those who have given up on ever...

‘Absurd’ math used to calculate ‘Comeback Agenda,’ financial pro says – Lake County Gazette

"There's no way that anyone would stick around to pay this liability," Mark Glennon, founder of Wirepoints. "And it wouldn't be going to pay for higher education or schools or whatever the left wants to see the money spent on. It would be going toward paying down that legacy pension debt."

US faces crisis as pension funding hole hits $3.85 trillion – Financial Times

US cities and states face a “looming crisis” after the collective funding hole in the public pension system jumped by $434bn in just one...

States to persist with secure choice – Pensions & Investments

Congressional resolutions that unraveled safe harbors for states and cities to create retirement programs for private-sector employees accomplished two things: They stiffened those states' resolve to push ahead, and they dramatized the urgency of finding a way to help what AARP estimates to be as many as 55 million workers who lack access to a retirement plan.

IL minor league baseball asks for minimum wage exemption to mirror federal law – IRN

Independent minor league baseball in Illinois could be threatened by minimum wage increase without help from lawmakers in Springfield.

Horseradish capital of the world prepares to celebrate its prized root in Southern Illinois – INN

Collinsville is known as the horseradish capital of the world, growing 60 percent to 80 percent of the root that’s enjoyed everywhere, and the city is inviting visitors to come celebrate its cash crop at this year’s International Horseradish Festival.

Krug: So much for bulletproof predictions – INN

"I think what’s lost in the willful indifference to Illinoisans is that, as taxpayers, we are all volunteers. We are here on our own...

Florida woman seen hitting herself with fallen sprinkler piece highlights fraud case – Sun-Sentinel

Comment: This story is from Florida, but anecdotal stories of widespread worker's comp fraud in Chicago have been rampant for decades. Sure wish somebody would get to the bottom of it.

Illinois to lose more than 10 percent of federal grant funding under Trump budget – INN

Pew Charitable Trusts says one of the largest proposed cuts is in federal grants to help needy households pay their heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. The state would have to decide to either send out tens of millions more in tax dollars through the state program or roll back the service.

Metro East median property taxes rank in the top 50 highest in Illinois – Illinois Policy

High property taxes in the Metro East region are fueling out-migration from the area.

On ‘Grand Bargain,’ Senate Democrats Say They’ve Nothing Left To Concede – NPR IL

Comment: But they've conceded to nothing yet! There is absolutely nothing in the Grand Bargain that can be described as a "concession" by Dems.

Fear of junk bond ratings hangs over Illinois budget crisis – Reuters

Illinois faces costly consequences if it fails to pass a budget by the end of May and is hit with more credit rating downgrades, state lawmakers were warned this week.

17% of Illinois homes are seriously underwater – Illinois Policy

Senators differ on need for tax increases in balanced budget plan – INN

"The state is only expected to bring in about $31.5 billion but is on pace, without cuts and reforms, to spend upwards to $40 billion."

Radogno and Durkin Op-Ed: Fresh thinking will fix Illinois – State Journal-Register

— State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lamont, is the Senate Republican Leader and Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, is the House Republican Leader in the Illinois legislature.

Illinois senator’s proposal offers pension reform through 401(k)-style plans – Illinois Policy

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, has proposed a plan that would give all state workers access to retirement plans that offer portability and flexibility...

Illinois Issues: Fiscal Fantasy – NPR Illinois

Comment: Progress, at last! It's great to see somebody in the regular media wising up to the reality that government budget numbers are bunk.

‘Home repair tax’ will hurt Illinois home building industry, Quad Cities builders say – Rock Island Today

Legislators are mulling a 6.25 percent "home repair tax" that could damage the home building and repair industry and negatively impact property value.

Berg: Illinois teachers get no respect from state government Opinion – INN

Three ways that Illinois lawmakers are failing teachers and the families who rely on them.

Audio – Speaker Michael Madigan sits down with WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez

Comment: Don't waste 30 minutes on this. Summarized, Madigan says it's all the fault of Rauner and his extreme right wing agenda, specifically, workers comp, prevailing wages and collective bargaining. And Valasquez, like most reporters, never bothered to ask for even an outline of a financial plan that would put Illinois on a sustainable path. A disgraceful performance by both Madigan and Valasquez.

Jim Nowlan: ‘Politics of blame’ game diminishes us all – Mywebtimes

"I am afraid there is no stopping this counterproductive, hyper-focused 'blame train.' It’s the way of politics today."

Why The Online Threat To Big Retail Means Bigger Holes In Illinois Budgets – BGA

The ongoing retrenchment foreshadows a funding crisis for communities that look to sales tax revenue as a key revenue source. Property tax revenue, too, gets squeezed because abandoned properties get reassessed at lower rates.

Pension Tension, Part 2: Don’t California My Texas – Nasdaq

Comment: Excellent piece on the huge interstate issues arising from state and local financial and pension problems: "The rub is there’s nothing random about the rot spreading across the municipal landscape. The buck will eventually stop somewhere.... The theory is taxpayers will take the tax hikes of the future required to rescue pensions lying down.... Targeted residents are much more apt to follow in Cook County’s fleeing population’s footsteps, that is, pull up stakes and move to lower tax states."

DMV hiring embezzler for second state job enough to drive you crazy – Belleville News Democrat

So you work for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, embezzle $234,000 from the bursar’s office where students make tuition payments and serve 15 months in...