Deficits

Cook County, Illinois, Faces $174 Million Shortfall

From the Cook County, Illinois, website (under “News) last Thursday:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today released the preliminary forecast for the County’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, signaling that difficult financial choices are on the horizon as the County develops its budget over the next several months.

Preckwinkle announced a projected operating shortfall for FY2017 of $174.3 million…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website on June 30:

A year after reversing course and reinstating a hefty sales tax increase that helped spell the political demise of her predecessor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday warned of more potential tax hikes to come.

Without cuts or additional taxes, fines and fees — or some combination of those options — the county expects to fall more than $174 million short of what would be needed to pay the bills in the budget year that starts Dec. 1.

Closing the gap “will not be easy, but residents will be assured that we will do so by making tough decisions required,” Preckwinkle said while presenting her preliminary budget in an annual ritual that invariably includes significant shortfall projections.

The county will focus on cutting costs, but “everything is on the table,” including tax increases and layoffs, Preckwinkle said

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Dardick noted that the Cook County Board President ruled out hiking property taxes this time around.

Like I’ve been warning for a number of years now- Chicagoans, Cook County residents and Illinoisans should expect higher/new fees, fines, and taxes in conjunction with reduced government services going forward.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Preckwinkle: Tax hike, budget cuts on table as county faces $174M shortfall.” Chicago Tribune. 30 June 2016. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-budget-shortfall-met-0631-20160630-story.html). 5 July 2016.

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Chicago Property Taxes Hiked As School Budget Passed

There are so many new and increased fees, fines, and taxes being proposed and implemented around the Chicagoland area these days, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. But here’s one Chicago tax hike that’s just been approved that’s making local headlines. Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school board on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget that relies heavily on borrowed money and the hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield, with the specter of disruptive cuts in January if that help fails to materialize.

The $5.7 billion spending plan contains another property tax hike — an estimated $19-a-year increase for the owner of a $250,000 home — as well as teacher and staff layoffs. The Chicago Board of Education also prepared to go to Wall Street to issue $1 billion in bonds and agreed to spend $475,000 so an accounting firm can monitor a cash flow problem so acute that Chicago Public Schools mulled skipping a massive teacher pension payment at the end of June…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

My old neighbors on the city’s Northwest Side, in their single family homes that are selling just south of the $350K-mark on average these days, probably aren’t too thrilled to hear about this latest tax hike.

Oh, but it gets “better.” Perez added:

To help patch over a budget gap the district said exceeds $1.1 billion, CPS raised its property taxes to the maximum amount allowed under state law. But CPS may not be done — [Chicago Public Schools chief Forrest] Claypool has floated the idea of restoring a property tax levy dedicated to teacher pensions that would generate an estimated $170 million

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind this is just the school’s portion of the Chicago property owner’s tax bill we’re talking about here.

Once again, a couple of bucks here, a couple of bucks there, and all these new and increased fees, fines, and taxes from various levels of government will have Chicago taxpayers going bonkers soon enough.

And Illinois taxpayers- note that bit about:

The hope of a nearly $500 million bailout from a stalemated Springfield…

You too could be on the hook for this debacle.

Head on over to the Chicago Tribune website here to get the full story on this latest tax hike.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Illinois On Pace To Run $5 Billion Deficit

“Gaze upon the Illinois landscape today and things may seem OK. Schools opened last week, the roads are getting repaired, the state fair was held, the University of Illinois begins a new academic year tomorrow, the state government’s even paying its bills.

Enjoy this period of normality. It isn’t going to last much longer…”

-Tom Kacich, reporter/columnist at The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana), August 23, 2015

More bad news about Illinois’ fiscal health. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website Monday:

Illinois is paying its bills – by court mandate — since Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner were unable to reach a budget agreement. Rauner vetoed a Democrat-authored financial plan in June, saying it was out of balance by some $4 billion. The new fiscal year came and went July 1 without a new plan in place. Both sides say they’re willing to negotiate, but remain locked into their positions. Rauner wants a series of changes to benefit businesses and weaken unions in Illinois. Democrats oppose the proposals and say they shouldn’t be attached to a budget…

A recent analysis by Senate Democrats indicates that because of various contracts, decrees and court orders compelling spending, the state had already committed 90 percent of its revenues and was on pace to be $5 billion in the hole

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Kacich added from my old stomping grounds:

In May the Democrats who control the Legislature approved a budget that called for spending about $36.5 billion.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it, calling it “unconstitutional” and “unbalanced.”

You want to see unbalanced?

Even without a constitutional budget in place, the state is still spending money, and eventually it could rise to a level of spending greater than the budget the Democrats sent him in May.

During a Senate hearing last week on an additional appropriation of $373 million for MAP grants for low-income college students — it passed and will go to the House for near-certain approval — Democratic legislators admitted the state is operating at a “spend rate” of 90 percent on a $38 billion budget

Anticipated revenue for the year, meanwhile, is the range of $32 billion, or $33 billion if the economy takes off.

Ugh…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$36.5 billion was the proposed budget. It was vetoed. The state is currently operating at a 90 percent “spend rate” of a $38 billion budget. And anticipated revenue for the year is only $32-$33 billion.

Not good.

Kacich thinks a tax increase, “that may or may not be bigger than the one that was phased out on Jan. 1.,” is headed our way.

I think he’s right about that tax hike. And it’s something Illinoisans may want to take into account concerning their personal finances in the near future.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Kacich, Tom. “Tom Kacich: Enjoy the calm; the storm is on the way.” The News-Gazette. 23 Aug. 2015. (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-08-23/tom-kacich-enjoy-calm-storm-way.html). 26 Aug. 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “Comptroller: Illinois facing ‘severe cash shortage.’ Chicago Sun-Times. 24 Aug. 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/903797/comptroller-illinois-facing-severe-cash-shortage). 26 Aug. 2015.

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Chicago Public Schools Budget: Property Taxes Hiked To The Max

“Property tax hikes.” Something Chicagoans better get used to hearing in the coming years. Hal Dardick, Heather Gillers, and Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Chicago Public Schools unveiled a budget Monday meant to pressure Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers into providing nearly a half-billion dollars in pension relief, a gambit school officials warn will bring painful cuts if help doesn’t arrive by Jan. 1.

In addition to help from the state, the $5.7 billion operating budget relies on extensive borrowing, an influx of tens of millions in dollars in surpluses from special city taxing districts and an increase of the district’s property tax

To help patch over a budget gap the district said exceeds $1.1 billion, CPS will raise its property taxes to the maximum amount allowable — resulting in a $19 tax bill bump for the owner of a $250,000 home, the district said — while pushing $200 million in debt into the future…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

$19 here, a few bucks there, and pretty soon all these “bumps” start to add up, leading to mass frustration among Chicago taxpayers. And’s this particular increase isn’t a one-off either. From the Tribune piece:

And if Springfield does comes through — which is far from a sure thing — [Chicago schools chief Forrest] Claypool said the district would still need concessions from unions and larger tax hikes in years to come to keep up with the cost of ballooning pension payments…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I said, “mass frustration.”

At what point does it all boil over?

Chicago taxpayers should probably read this article in its entirety to get a clearer picture of what looks to be in store for their pocketbooks in the near future and farther down the road. You can find the piece on the Tribune website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Chicago Requires $754 Million In New Revenue, Cuts To Balance Books

For a couple of years now, regular readers of Survival And Prosperity have witnessed me blog about higher fees/fines/taxes and reduced government services as Chicago’s financial reckoning day draws closer.

I fear the pace of all this is about to pick up.

Hal Dardick reported on the Chicago Tribune website late Friday afternoon:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel must come up with at least $754 million in new revenue and budget cuts to balance the city’s books, according to preliminary 2016 budget estimates the administration released Friday.

A little less than half — $328 million — would cover increased payments to the police and fire pension funds that Emanuel and aldermen did not account for in this year’s budget. That number could be even higher if the mayor doesn’t get the pension relief he’s seeking from Springfield.

In addition, City Hall must figure out how to close a projected $426 million hole in next year’s budget, an annual financial analysis showed. The shortfall comes as Emanuel has been borrowing at high interest rates to keep the city afloat.

Unlike previous years, Emanuel is not taking a property tax increase off the table. At a news conference this week, the mayor would not rule out a politically unpopular property tax hike, saying he’ll wait to show his hand until September, when he rolls out “a full budget with all parts in there.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicago property owners are probably hoping for an endless summer- considering what could be in store for them next month.

A significant property tax hike in and of itself might not be enough to make Chicagoans think about moving out of the city. However, sustained pressure on household finances from all applicable fees, fines, and taxes could do it, particularly if government services (public safety comes to mind here) steadily erode.

You can read the entire piece on the Tribune website here (registration required).

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jim Rogers Predicts Crude Oil, Russian Ruble Comeback But Warns On U.S. Dollar

On Tuesday, The Economic Times (India) released an interview of well-known investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers on its website. Discussing weakness in the crude oil market in light of the recent nuclear “deal” with Iran, the former investing partner of George Soros said:

Not here to stay, but certainly when you have a big collapse in anything, it hits a bottom, then there is a big rebound. We call it in America a dead-cat bounce. Then you have a test, a second test to the low.

This is going to lead to the second test to the low. There is always a reason for the second test and now we are having it, but is oil going to stay down forever? No. Remember that known reserves around the world are in decline, except for fracking. This is good news for people who consume, bad news for people who produce. But it is not the end of the story…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Rogers thinks the Russian ruble, a currency he’s been bullish about for some time now, will benefit from a crude oil comeback. Sputnik, the international news service owned and operated by the Russian government, referenced a recent interview of the Singapore-based investor on Gazeta.ru. From the news outlet Tuesday:

Concerning the current rouble situation Rogers said, “Russia has low debt, unlike Greece, as well as convertible currency, which is quite unique for the new markets. So fundamentally its position can be called normal. It is being pressured by lower oil prices, but as soon as the black gold finds the stable point the situation will improve for the rouble.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sputnik added:

He also mentioned the dollar saying that the US currency is in a terrible situation as the US national debt and trade deficit are huge.

“If we simply write out on paper the facts that lie behind the ruble and the dollar, without naming the currency, then everyone will want to buy rubles and no one will buy dollars. But as soon as you name them then, of course, people buy dollars.”

He added that he hopes he will be smart enough to get rid of dollars before the collapse happens. “Everything seems perfect, until one day it ceases to be so. It was the same with Britain, France, Spain and Greece. Often stocks manage to go up for a few years before hitting bankruptcy.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Last I heard, Rogers still owned greenbacks. I blogged back on November 11, 2014:

Despite the above warning, Rogers shared with Reuters back on October 23 that he still owned the U.S. dollar. He explained:

I have no confidence in the long-term strength of the U.S. dollar. I only own it because I expect all this turmoil to happen. And in times of turmoil, people flee to the safe-haven of the U.S. dollar. It’s not a safe-haven, but they think it’s a safe-haven, so people will own it. That’s why I own it.

Now what I expect to happen is, the dollar will go up stronger and stronger over the next year or two, at which point- some point- I’ll have to sell it. I have no idea what I’ll do with my money then because the world has got this terrible, terrible unsound foundation in all assets.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

Sources:

“Crude prices may sink on more Iran oil, but will rebound as known reserves are declining: Jim Rogers.” The Economic Times. 14 July 2015. (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/crude-prices-may-sink-on-more-iran-oil-but-will-rebound-as-known-reserves-are-declining-jim-rogers/articleshow/48066869.cms). 17 July 2015.

“US ‘Shot Itself in the Foot’ by Pushing Russia Toward China – Jim Rogers” Sputnik. 14 July 2015. (http://sputniknews.com/business/20150714/1024625814.html). 17 July 2015.

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Tax Hikes Coming As Illinois Public Pension Crisis ‘Fix’ Shot Down By State Supreme Court?

This weekend Illinoisans heard about the Friday ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on a law that was celebrated by many as a big step in resolving the state’s well-publicized public pension crisis. Rick Pearson and Kim Geiger reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt…

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

Employee unions sued, arguing that the state constitution holds that pension benefits amount to a contractual agreement and once they’re bestowed, they cannot be “diminished or impaired.” A circuit court judge in Springfield agreed with that assessment in November. State government appealed that decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that economic necessity forced curbing retirement benefits.

On Friday the justices rejected that argument, saying the law clearly violated what’s known as the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Can’t say I was too surprised to hear that ruling handed down.

As for the ramifications on Main Street? Pearson and Geiger added:

The ruling means Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have to come up with a new solution after justices appeared to offer little in the way of wiggle room beyond paying what’s owed, which likely would require a tax increase. Coming up with a way to bridge a budget gap of more than $6 billion already was going to be difficult with little more than three weeks before a scheduled May 31 adjournment, and now the pension mess has been added to the mix.

Rauner, who argued during last year’s campaign that the law was unconstitutional and didn’t go far enough to reduce the pension debt, said the court ruling only reinforces his approach of getting voters to approve a constitutional amendment that “would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“A constitutional amendment”

I’m not so sure how that would work out. Consider what Natasha Korecki reported over on the Chicago Sun-Times website Friday:

But it was unclear how such an amendment would help solve the crisis. It arguably could not bring savings because, according to the court ruling, a new law cannot retroactively affect those who are already in the system, said Charles N. Wheeler III, Director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield…

“Likely would require a tax increase”

I suspect- as Survival And Prosperity has been warning for some time now- that Illinoisans will soon be hit with significantly-higher taxes as a consequence of those $6 billion state budget and $105 public pension gaps. Korecki added:

An Illinois Supreme Court ruling that struck down a pension reform law on Friday could have just opened the door even wider to the prospect of deep cuts to services and new taxes for Illinois residents.

With only three weeks left until lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget, legislators now have even more political cover to raise taxes and cut spending following the high court’s decision that it was unconstitutional for the state to pare back promised pension benefits for state employees…

“This ensures that however we resolve this, the citizens of Illinois will be paying more for less service from the state of Illinois,” Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said of Friday’s ruling. “I think that’s an inevitable outcome from this.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Less government services. Higher fees, fines, and taxes.”

Something I’ve kept warning about on this blog, with regular observers of Springfield now talking it about these days (if they weren’t already).

I wonder to what extent Illinoisans have prepared/are preparing for such a scenario? I’ll be talking more about this later.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Pearson, Rick and Geiger, Kim. “Illinois Supreme Court rules landmark pension law unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 8 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-pension-law-court-ruling-20150508-story.html#page=1). 11 May 2015.

Korecki, Natasha. “State Supreme Court pension ruling provides political cover to cut more, tax more.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 May 2015. (http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/7/71/590030/state-supreme-court-pension-ruling-provides-political-cover-cut-tax). 11 May 2015.

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