Political Parties

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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My Thoughts On Chicago’s Financial Crisis

I know I’ve been blogging a lot about Chicago/Cook County/Illinois lately. Which should come as no surprise to regular Survival And Prosperity readers considering I’ve talked about how I was born on the West Side, was raised around that area, and lived on the Northwest Side until I moved to the northwest suburbs two years ago.

Both the Chicagoland area and Illinois have been on my mind a lot recently. I fear we’re on the verge of some major upheaval stemming from decades of fiscal mismanagement by policymakers from both sides of the political aisle (some might think this blog only targets Democrats- over the years I’ve demonstrated everyone’s “fair game”). And by verge, I mean in the coming weeks. Focusing on Chicago today, what might kick it off (regular observers have witnessed the crisis growing for some time now)? I suspect the following. From the Chicago Tribune website back on July 31:

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)

A good portion of the coming pain is going to be felt by the Chicago taxpayer. What kind of “pain” am I talking about? That which I’ve been blogging about for a couple of years now- new/higher fees, fines, and taxes, coupled with reduced government services. Last night’s post about potential revenue generators Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council are mulling over (hat tip Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times) should give Chicagoans a better picture of what’s headed their way (a property tax hike and garbage collection fee look likely). Concerning cutbacks in government services, I think that’s already begun. For example, the manpower shortage in the Chicago Police Department (hat tip Second City Cop) that’s existed for some years now. Down the road, I predict the average Chicago taxpayer will find it increasingly difficult to afford living in the city, let alone doing it safely as local government struggles to provide effective, efficient services to constituents.

Now, it’s bad enough Chicago/Cook County/Illinois are in real financial trouble. But then there’s the legitimate concern of a slowing economy/recession being right around the corner, never mind that coming financial crash I started blogging about back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007.

So what’s a Chicago taxpayer to do? This former Chicago resident picked up and left the city limits in 2013. Concerned about future tax and public safety liabilities, my girlfriend and I reluctantly departed our “suburb in the city” and moved into a house in a not-too-far away authentic suburb. Granted, we’ll still be on the hook for county and state problems, but it’s what makes sense for us in the short-term.

As much as I blast Chicago on Survival And Prosperity (“tough love”), I’m not convinced the city’s going to go “belly-up.” I think there’s a good chance it could be run by something similar to the Emergency Financial Control Board in New York City from 1975 until 1986 (talked about here back in April), but even a setback like that won’t be the end of the “City By The Lake,” just like it wasn’t for the “Big Apple.” I do predict city life is going to get real hairy once the “balloon goes up,” but I think that will be the case in a lot of urban areas nationwide.

That’s my two cents on Chicago’s financial crisis- for now. Chicago readers of this blog- what are you planning to do about the crisis? Or, what are you already doing? Maybe you don’t think a crisis exists? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the “Comments” section of this post, as I’d really like to talk more about this going forward.

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

(Editor’s note: 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)

Source:

Dardick, Hal. “Emanuel needs $754M more to make ends meet.” Chicago Tribune. 31 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rahm-emanuel-chicago-budget-shortfall-met-0801-20150731-story.html). 21 Aug. 2015.

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Chicago Board Of Education Could Borrow More Than $1 Billion With $600 Million-Plus Pension Payment Due Next Week

I fear Chicago’s celebratory mood post-Stanley Cup could be fast disappearing as the city’s financial reckoning day rapidly approaches. Juan Perez, Jr., reported on the Chicago Tribune website tonight:

The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday approved plans to borrow more than $1 billion in an effort to manage an immediate cash crunch and get through the coming budget year.

The borrowing is on top of an existing line of credit of up to $500 million. The initial $200 million in borrowing authorized Wednesday could help the district cover its bills through the end of June, but the district would be short of cash to cover payments shortly after that, according to documents obtained by the Tribune.

A separate line of credit of up to $935 million would take the district through the coming budget year. The loans will be secured with the promise of future property tax revenue.

The board’s unanimous 5-0 vote in favor additional borrowing came one day after the Illinois House fell 18 votes short of approving a three-week extension on a $600 million-plus pension payment due next week

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Democrats have a supermajority in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, and “Machine”-controlled Chicago still couldn’t get that pension payment deadline extended.

Oh well. Long-time Survival And Prosperity readers shouldn’t be the least bit surprised about the latest bad news concerning Chicago’s public schools. I blogged way back on September 13, 2012:

By now, many of you have probably heard about the teachers strike going on in Chicago. Day 4 and counting. While many Chicago public school teachers are probably worth every red cent of the $71,017 median salary they command- and more- when all things are considered, considering the precarious financial situation of the Chicago Public Schools, a larger crisis looks to be right around the corner.

Looks like we’re almost there.

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

Source:

Perez, Juan. “Chicago school board approves more than $1 billion in new borrowing.” Chicago Tribune. 24 June 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-school-board-meets-met-0625-20150624-story.html). 24 June 2015.

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Chicago Tribune: ‘Chicagoans Should Consider A Modest Property Tax Increase Inevitable’

Coming on the heels of last Thursday’s post and an earlier one about Chicago-area property/other taxes was an article by Chicago Tribune business columnist Melissa Harris entitled “Chicago isn’t Detroit- and it’s not going bankrupt.”

In the June 20 piece, Harris attempted to argue exactly what the title says (critics are panning it as “Machine”/union propaganda). But what interested me were statements like this:

More revenue will be required soon, most likely in the form of a property tax increase.

Not only is Chicago’s property tax rate lower than those in many suburbs, Chicago’s effective property tax rate ranked 49th out of the 50 largest cities in each state, according to 2009 U.S. Census data…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And this:

Chicagoans should consider a modest property tax increase inevitable, though how much of an increase it will be could be affected by Moody’s decision, which made it more expensive for Chicago to borrow money…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

If one believes claims the Chicago news media routinely carries Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s water, increased tax hike chatter and growing comparisons of the city to other municipalities by the local press could be sending a strong signal to Chicagoans that they’ll be required to bust out their wallets shortly.

You can read the rest of that column on the Chicago Tribune website here (registration required)

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

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Illinois Tax Hikes Coming Warn Municipal Bond Fund Managers

Talk of rapidly-approaching tax hikes in the “Land of Lincoln” is growing. Reuters’ Nick Brown, Megan Davies, and Karen Pierog reported yesterday:

With no easy way to financially engineer or negotiate its way out of a budget and pensions crisis, Illinois is likely to dish out some unpleasant medicine to its residents in the next few years. And investors say that is most likely to come in the form of higher taxes.

Given the Democrats’ control of the state legislature and their opposition to many proposals for spending cuts, municipal bond fund managers see little alternative for Republican Governor Bruce Rauner other than eventually agreeing to hike taxes, such as raising the state’s income tax or broadening its sales tax base…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity shouldn’t be surprised when the hikes (fees, fines, and taxes) arrive, as they’ve been discussed on this blog for quite some time now. The tragedy is that Springfield continues to waste time and resources on trivial matters while neglecting to tackle crucial issues like the well-publicized debt crisis. Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger reported on the latest nonsense preoccupying the politicians. From the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan’s effort to ask voters to approve a measure to impose higher income taxes on millionaires failed in the House on Thursday, but provides the powerful Southwest Side politician ammunition to attack Republicans in next year’s legislative campaigns.

The proposal needed 71 “yes” votes to pass, but received just 68. But now there’s a roll call, and Madigan’s Illinois Democratic Party could send out mailers criticizing Republicans who voted against the idea. Democrats already have sent out attack ads against Republicans who did not vote in favor of a property tax freeze last week

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Games. Stupid political games as the state’s “financial reckoning day” fast approaches.

By the way, back on March 24 of last year I blogged about that push for a “millionaire’s tax” in Illinois. My prediction now is pretty much the same as it was a year ago:

Should Illinois Democrats jack up their income taxes, I suspect the number of Illinois millionaires right before the tax hike is implemented will plummet. Revenue will follow. Out-of-state vacation homes in Indiana and Wisconsin will be declared as primary residences.

The only difference being, I forgot to mention Michigan vacation homes.

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

Sources:

Brown, Nick, Davies, Megan and Pierog. “As Illinois runs out of options in budget crisis, tax rises seen in the cards.” Reuters. 20 May 2015. (http://news.yahoo.com/illinois-runs-options-budget-crisis-tax-rises-seen-051616644.html). 21 May 2015.

Garcia, Monique and Geiger, Kim. “Madigan’s ‘millionaire tax’ question fails in House.” Chicago Tribune. 21 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-rauner-warns-of-long-overtime-20150521-story.html). 21 May 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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Chicago-Area Democrats Push To Expand ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Throughout Illinois

After a federal court upheld an “assault weapons” ban by the City of Highland Park, gun “control” supporters in Chicago’s far north suburbs are trying to expand the ban on these military-pattern semi-automatic rifles throughout the state of Illinois- under the guise of “local control.” Deb McCarver reported on the Illinois Senate Democrats website Tuesday:

In response to a recent federal court ruling in support of Highland Park’s assault weapons ban, state Senator Julie Morrison introduced a measure to restore the right to ban assault weapons to every city and village in the state.

“This is about local control,” the Deerfield Democrat said. “Highland Park decided to protect its citizens by banning assault weapons. Every other city and village in Illinois should have that same right.”

The highly controversial 2013 law that allowed Illinois residents to carry concealed weapons also prohibited local governments from banning assault weapons…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

According to the “synopsis” of Illinois Senate Bill 2130:

the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Deletes provision that the regulation of the possession or ownership of assault weapons are exclusive powers and functions of this State. Deletes provision that any ordinance or regulation, or portion of that ordinance or regulation, that purports to regulate the possession or ownership of assault weapons in a manner that is inconsistent with the Act, shall be invalid unless the ordinance or regulation is enacted on, before, or within 10 days after the effective date of Public Act 98-63 (July 9, 2013). Deletes provision that any ordinance or regulation described in the stricken provision enacted more than 10 days after the effective date of Public Act 98-63 is invalid. Effective immediately…

This Tuesday I noted something Robert McCoppin reported on the Chicago Tribune website April 28. From his piece:

A federal court Monday upheld Highland Park’s ban on assault weapons — possibly setting the stage for a showdown over the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court…

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said he was confident the law could be overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court, but the National Rifle Association would have to decide whether to make a costly appeal.

“The Second Amendment is about the right to keep and bear arms,” Pearson said. “The government doesn’t get to pick the list.”

After Senator Morrison’s action- supported by Highland Park Mayor and Democratic candidate for Congress (10th Congressional District) Nancy Rotering (as evidenced later on in that McCarver piece)- don’t be surprised if an appeal is now launched by pro-gun rights forces- costs be damned.

As for Highland Park, which is making a strong bid for wrestling away the title of “Ground Zero for Gun ‘Control’” from Oak Park, Illinois, these days, I suspect they could be on the hook for some astronomical legal fees after all is said and done.

You can track the status of SB2130 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

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

Source:

McCarver, Deb. “Morrison: Illinois should let cities ban assault weapons.” Illinois Senate Democrats. 5 May 2015. (http://www.illinoissenatedemocrats.com/index.php?option=com_tag&task=tag&tag=sb2130). 7 May 2015.

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Polls Show Americans More Optimistic On Economy

Despite the significant financial challenges this country faces, a number of Americans seem to be more optimistic about the economy going forward. Jeffry Bartash reported on the MarketWatch website yesterday:

Even though U.S. growth slowed sharply in the first quarter, Americans are more optimistic about the economy now than at any time since President Obama took over the White House in January 2009.

A new CNN poll shows that 52% of Americans view the economy as “very” or “somewhat” good vs. 48% who call it “poor” or “somewhat poor.”

It’s only the second time a majority have expressed a positive view during the Obama presidency — the first time was in December — and it is the highest reading in almost eight years. The last time Americans were as optimistic was in September 2007

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

In addition to that CNN poll, a recent Bloomberg Politics poll suggests the American public is more positive about the economy and how Barack Obama and the Democrats are handling it. Margaret Talev wrote on the Bloomberg website last week:

Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes may be buoyed by a more optimistic feeling about President Barack Obama and the economy seen in a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

Americans are becoming more optimistic about the country’s economic prospects by several different measures. President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy is being seen more positively than negatively for the first time in more than five years, 49 percent to 46 percent—his best number in this poll since September 2009

Thirty-four percent said the national economy will become stronger over the next year, while just 21 percent said it will get worse and 44 percent predicted the status quo. That’s up from last June, when 30 percent said things were getting better…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, Myles Udland noted in an April 17 piece on the Business Insider website:

Consumer confidence is soaring.

The preliminary reading on consumer confidence from the University of Michigan came in at 95.9, topping expectations for a reading of 94.0.

This is the second highest reading since 2007…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


National Recovery Administration, The Road Is Open Again (1933)
YouTube Video

I’m not sure where all this optimism is coming from. After all, the nation’s economic woes which reared its ugly head by the fall of 2008 have merely been papered over and kicked down the road a few years.

Meanwhile, the Fed depleted plenty of ammunition (see “About” page Fed charts) keeping the whole setup afloat.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably not a bad idea to take advantage of this upsurge in confidence to try and improve one’s resilience to a financial crash I still see coming.

Each person’s circumstances are different. But I, for one, have been focusing on meeting those six “innate survival needs” from my “Project Prepper” series of posts- among other things like increasing income. To recap, those “needs” are:

• Security
• Water
• Food
• Shelter
• Sanitation and Health
• Energy

In order of priority- for me.

Hopefully, these can be taken care of before the “balloon goes up.”

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

Sources:

Bartash, Jeffry. “American optimism about economy highest since Obama became president.” MarketWatch. 21 Apr. 2015. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/american-optimism-about-economy-highest-since-obama-became-president-2015-04-21). 22 Apr. 2015.

Talev, Margaret. “Bloomberg Politics National Poll Finds Improving Economic Mood.” Bloomberg.com. 16 Apr. 2015. (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-04-16/bloomberg-politics-national-poll-finds-improving-economic-mood). 22 Apr. 2015.

Udland, Myles. “Consumer confidence soars to second-highest level since 2007.” Business Insider. 17 Apr. 2015. (http://www.businessinsider.com/university-of-michigan-consumer-confidence-2015-4). 22 Apr. 2015.

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Obama: ‘I Haven’t Given Up’ On Tighter Gun Control

During this renewed push by Democrats for more gun “control,” I’ve noted efforts at the state level here in Illinois and in Congress as well. Now, U.S. President Barack Obama had thrown down the gauntlet in 2015. Obama recently spoke with Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News during a sit-down interview at Howard University. From their exchange which was uploaded on the ABC News website on April 8:

BESSER: Following Sandy Hook, you promised America tighter gun control. Have you given up?
OBAMA: No, I haven’t given up. What we’ve done is to try to do as much as we could administratively- to tighten up how background checks are run, to go after illegal drug runners. But I will tell you that trying to get something through Congress has proven to be really difficult. And it’s heartbreaking…


YouTube Video

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

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Bill Introduced To Permit Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

Since I started blogging about a U.S. financial crash back on Memorial Day Weekend 2007, I’ve believed one casualty will be municipal government. Particularly in Illinois. So imagine my non-surprise when I spotted an article on the Chicago Tribune website a couple of days ago about proposed legislation at the state level granting Illinois towns the authority to file for bankruptcy. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press wrote on March 26:

Stressed by pension debt, other financial issues and the possibility losing a chunk of their state aid, some Illinois cities want the option to file for bankruptcy. They’ve found an ally in a Republican lawmaker, who’s proposed legislation to allow municipalities to follow in the footsteps of Detroit and other cities in restructuring debt and paying back creditors…

Rep. Ron Sandack is sponsoring legislation that would grant authority for communities to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code. The Downers Grove Republican says it’s a “measure of last resort,” especially with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal in next year’s budget to cut in half the local governments’ share of state income taxes by 50 percent.

“It’s just giving time and space to do things right,” he said…

Swedberg added later in the piece:

Municipal bankruptcies are rare, NCSL data shows. Of 37 local government filings since 2010, only 8 were cities, with the majority filed by utilities and special districts.

Detroit filed for the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in July 2013, looking to restructure $12 billion of debt…

It’s true. Municipal bankruptcies haven’t happened too often. But keep in mind what Eric Weiner wrote on the NPR website back on February 28, 2008:

For most of U.S. history, cities and towns were not eligible for bankruptcy protection. But during the Great Depression, more than 2,000 municipalities defaulted on their debt, and they pleaded with President Roosevelt for a federal bailout. “All they got was sympathy,” reported Time magazine in 1933. Instead, Roosevelt pushed through changes to the bankruptcy laws that allows towns and cities to file for bankruptcy. They even got their own section of the bankruptcy code: Chapter Nine…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

There’s also this from Robert Slavin on The Bond Buyer website back on January 14:

For the municipal bond industry, 2015 marks the midpoint in what may turn out to be the decade of the bankruptcy.

Four of the five largest municipal bankruptcy filings in United States history have been made in roughly the last three years, a trend analysts attribute to the aftereffects of the 2008 credit crisis and Great Recession, as well as changing attitudes about debt.

“The crash of 2008 and five years of stagnation preceded by years of escalating wages, pensions and Other Post-Employment Benefits set the stage for our recent Chapter 9 filings,” said Arent Fox partner David Dubrow.

Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy was adopted in 1937 but had been rarely used, particularly by large governments. However, since November 2011 San Bernardino, Calif., Stockton, Calif., Jefferson County, Ala., and Detroit have filed four of the five largest bankruptcies as measured by total obligations.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Could the specter of Meredith Whitney, the “Diva Of Doom,” be returning to take revenge on the municipal bond industry?

I’m not surprised Illinois municipalities would be interested in House Bill 298. From Patrick Rehkamp and Andrew Schroedter on the website of the Chicago-based Better Government Association back on December 6, 2014:

Reasons for filing vary but often include troubled public development projects, unanticipated hefty legal judgments against a taxpayer-backed entity, or massive pension and bond debt payments that leave a municipality cash-strapped and unable to cover operating costs of employee salaries, vendor payments and other expenses.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The public pension crisis in Chicago and Illinois has been well-publicized for some time now. And while such entitlements are supposedly protected by a provision in the 1970 Illinois Constitution, the BGA noted in their piece:

In Illinois, public employee pensions are guaranteed by the state constitution. But in the Detroit and Stockton, California bankruptcy cases, federal judges have ruled that pension benefits can be adjusted, the same as other debts, despite a constitutional guarantee.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can track the progress of HB 298 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

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

Sources:

Swedberg, Nick. “Bill pushes for possible municipal bankruptcies in Illinois.” Associated Press. 29 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-bc-il–closer-look-bankruptcy-20150329-story.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Weiner, Eric. “What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt?” NPR. 28 Feb. 2008. (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=60740288). 3 Apr. 2015.

Slavin, Robert. “Why So Many Big Bankruptcies?” The Bond Buyer. 14 Jan. 2015. (http://www.bondbuyer.com/news/markets-buy-side/why-so-many-big-bankruptcies-1069539-1.html). 3 Apr. 2015.

Rehkamp, Patrick and Schroedter, Andrew. “Next Up: Illinois Municipal Bankruptcy?” Better Government Association. 16 Dec. 2014. (http://www.bettergov.org/next_up_illinois_municipal_bankruptcy/). 4 Apr. 2015.

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Illinois In Worst Shape Of 43 States That Filed FY 2014 Audits

William G. Holland, the Auditor General for the State of Illinois, has just reported on Illinois’ finances.

It’s still fugly.

From the Summary Report Digest for “Statewide Financial Statement Audit For the Year Ended June 30, 2014”:

The Illinois Office of the State Comptroller prepares the State of Illinois Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The CAFR is the State’s official annual report which provides the readers with the financial position of the State as of June 30, 2014, and results of operations during the fiscal year.

The financial section of the CAFR includes the Independent Auditors’ Report on the basic financial statements, the management discussion and analysis, the basic financial statements, required supplementary information, and individual fund statements and schedules…

The June 30, 2014 financial statements of the State of Illinois are fairly presented in all material respects.

The financial statements at June 30, 2014 reflect the following:

The net position of governmental activities continued to deteriorate and the deficit increased by $1.3 billion from FY13 to FY14. Overall, the net position of governmental activities is reported as a deficit of $49.2 billion. (Exhibit 1)
• The General Fund deficit decreased by $658 million from FY13 to FY14. The June 30, 2014 deficit was $6.7 billion. (Exhibit 2)

Over time, increases and decreases in net position measure whether the State’s financial position is improving or deteriorating. A comparison of Illinois’ financial position to other states is contained in Exhibit 3…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And the results of that “comparison of Illinois’ financial position to other states”?

Karen Pierog of Reuters reported Wednesday:

This left Illinois in the worst shape of the 43 U.S. states that had filed fiscal 2014 audits. The only other state with negative assets was Massachusetts at $29 billion. Texas reported the biggest positive net assets at $119.4 billion

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Good ol’ Texas. Probably get even more sneers from local folks at my University of Texas t-shirt I picked up while at that Food Insurance-sponsored prepper conference in Dallas the other year.

Pierog added something else of note:

The state marked its thirteenth consecutive year with a general fund deficit

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

For most of those years, Democrats have dominated state government, occupying the governor’s office and the majority of both houses in the Illinois General Assembly.

Coincidence?

I’ll keep typing it on this blog until my fingers fall off:

“Financial reckoning day” is eventually coming to the “Land of Lincoln.”

As such, it might be wise for Illinoisans to start preparing if they haven’t done so already.

It won’t be the end of the world, but for many it could feel like it. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to start addressing various vulnerabilities for such an occasion- financial and otherwise.

You can read that Summary Report Digest (.pdf format) on the Illinois Auditor General’s web page here.

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

(Editor’s note: 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)

Source:

Pierog, Karen. “Illinois finances continued downward slide in FY 2014: auditor.” Reuters. 18 Mar. 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/18/us-usa-illinois-audit-idUSKBN0ME2M920150318). 20 Mar. 2015.

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Illinois Gun Owners Descend On State Capital To Lobby Lawmakers

Yesterday was Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day (IGOLD) down in Springfield. Nick Swedberg of the Associated Press reported last night:

Gun owners from across the state flooded the Illinois Capitol on Wednesday for an annual rally, and many spoke with lawmakers from their home districts about legislation to broaden gun rights…

I’ve blogged about this annual gun rights event before. From the Illinois State Rifle Association website:

Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day (IGOLD) was started back in the early ‘90’s to put a face on Illinois gun owners. Up until that time the media had portrayed gun owners and those who believed in the Second Amendment as some knuckle dragging Neanderthal throw backs, barely worthy of being called humans. IGOLD helped change that although the mainstream media still labels gun owners that way, when they can get away with it.

The first ISRA Lobby Day was attended by about 200 people. Among those attending were four undercover policemen. In 2006, the ISRA joined with several other groups and ISRA Lobby Day became Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day (IGOLD). The Illinois Gun Owners’ Lobby Day (IGOLD) has become the number one demonstration of citizens promoting gun owners’ rights in the United States – the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) is its primary sponsor. The crowds have grown each year. In 2013, 8200 gun owners showed up to lobby their legislators and to become the face of all the gun owners in Illinois. Because of IGOLD and other ISRA activities, gun owners have increased in stature in Illinois…

I understand that this year IGOLD pushed for expanding gun rights in the state- particularly concealed-carry. Swedberg added:

Proposed legislation in the General Assembly would allow concealed carry in places prohibited under current law, such as bus stations, churches and bars…

The state’s top gun rights advocacy group is expected to meet with [Illinois Governor Bruce] Rauner this month, a meeting that previous Democratic governors only promised to have. The organization’s executive director said that’s a positive sign that the new administration will be more favorable to their cause than the last.

“It’s hard to deal with people who just shut you out,” Richard Pearson, head of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said.

Illinois gun owners should be grateful for ISRA and IGOLD. Because when the next mass shooting along the lines of Newtown comes along, their keeping the spotlight on gun rights will remind politicians across the “Land of Lincoln” they’ll have a battle on their hands attempting to implement knee-jerk ineffective and unconstitutional gun “control” laws.

For more information about the Illinois State Rifle Association, visit their website here.

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

Source:

Swedberg, Nick. “Gun owners rally for right to carry guns in more places.” Associated Press. 18 Mar. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-gun-rights-st-0319-20150318-story.html). 19 Mar. 2015.

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Illinois Democrat Introduces Statewide Gun Registration, Ammo ‘Control’ Bill

“A list, record, or registry of legally owned firearms or law-abiding firearm owners is not a law enforcement tool and can become an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm and exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. Further, such a list, record, or registry has the potential to fall into the wrong hands and become a shopping list for thieves.”

-State of Florida Statutes, 790.335 Prohibition of registration of firearms; electronic records

The push for more gun “control” is on the march in the “Land of Lincoln.”

Last year around this time, State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) spearheaded statewide gun registration and ammunition “control” in Illinois with HB4715. Creating the “Firearms Registration Act,” the legislation eventually went nowhere.

This time around, State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago) is the torch-bearer of more gun and ammo “control” in the Midwestern state, filing the resurrected Firearms Registration Act legislation in the Senate (SB1413) on February 20. From a synopsis of the bill over on the Illinois General Assembly website:

Creates the Firearms Registration Act. Provides that every person in the State must register each firearm he or she owns or possesses in accordance with the Act. Provides that a person shall not purchase or possess ammunition within this State without having first obtained a registration certificate identifying a firearm that is suitable for use with that ammunition, or a receipt demonstrating that the person has applied to register a suitable firearm under the Act and that the application is pending. Provides that the Department of State Police must complete a background check of any person who applies for: (1) a registration certificate for a firearm that was lawfully owned or possessed on the effective date of the Act, was brought into the State by a new resident, or was acquired by operation of law upon the death of the former owner; or (2) a renewal of a registration certificate unless, within 12 months of the date the renewal application is submitted, the applicant passed a background check conducted by the Department in connection with the applicant’s acquisition of another firearm. Provides exceptions. Amends the Criminal Code of 2012. Provides that it is a Class 2 felony to sell or transfer ownership of a firearm to another person without complying with the registration requirement of the Firearms Registration Act.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Before Illinois gun owners dismiss the chances of such legislation becoming law in the state, it should be noted that:

• 2014 was as an election year for state senators and representatives
• Illinois Democrats maintain a veto-proof supermajority in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in 2015- 71 Democrats to 46 Republicans in the House and 39 Democrats to 20 Republicans in the Senate
• A future mass shooting along the lines of Newtown or some other mass casualty event on American soil “featuring” firearms could be all it takes for the public to get behind the Firearms Registration Act

For more information about Illinois Senate Bill 1413 and to track its status, you can visit the Illinois General Assembly website here.

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

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Obama Taunts Republicans On Economy: ‘The Sky Hasn’t Fallen, Chicken Little Is Quiet’

Back when I was running this blog’s predecessor, Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” I remember coming across a number of infamous statements made prior to and during the Great Depression by leaders in government, finance, and industry of the day. For example, as Fox News cataloged back on October 26, 2009:

“We will not have any more crashes in our time.” – John Maynard Keynes (1927)

“There is no cause to worry. The high tide of prosperity will continue.” – Andrew W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury. (September 1929)

“There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash.” – Irving Fisher, Leading U.S. Economist, New York Times (Sept. 5, 1929)

“This crash is not going to have much effect on business.” – Arthur Reynolds, Chairman of Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago (October 24, 1929)

October 24, 1929, eventually became known in the history books as “Black Thursday,” when “the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 11% at the open in very heavy volume, precipitating the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s,” according to Investopedia.com.

Right before the weekend, the White House published a press release on their website containing a transcript of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. From that document:

I just want everybody to remember that at every step as we made policies, as we made this progress, we were told by our good friends, the Republicans, that our actions would crush jobs, and explode deficits, and destroy the country. I mean, I want everybody to do a fact-check — (laughter) — and go back to 2009, 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13 — just go back and look at the statements that were made each year by these folks about all these policies. Because apparently they don’t remember. (Laughter.)

And now that their grand predictions of doom and gloom, and death panels and Armageddon haven’t come true — (laughter) — the sky hasn’t fallen, Chicken Little is quiet — (laughter)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Something tells me this remark- akin to calling the outcome of a baseball game while it’s still in the early innings- will end up in the U.S. history books as well down the road, under that section entitled “Second Great Depression.”

“Let’s play two!” No thanks, Mr. Banks.

To be fair, President Obama isn’t entirely responsible for the coming financial crash. The actions of both sides of the political aisle through the decades have made the approaching “financial reckoning day” possible- and likely- in America.

You can read the complete transcript of President Obama’s speech on the White House website here.

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

Source:

“False Hope: Famous Quotes During the Great Depression.” FoxNews.com. 26 Oct. 2009. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/10/26/false-hope-famous-quotes-during-great-depression/). 22 Feb. 2015.

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Congressional Democrats Push ‘High-Capacity’ Magazine Ban

Like I blogged Monday, the gun “control” crowd is off-and-running several weeks into the new year. In addition to a ban on certain AR-15 rifle ammunition, they’re also pushing to ban “high-capacity” firearm ammunition magazines. From the website of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislation Action (NRA-ILA) last Friday:

Anti-gun U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), have introduced their Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act (S. 407 and H.R. 752, respectively), in yet another attempt to ban magazines that accept more than 10 rounds. Similar legislation has been introduced in previous Congresses, and has repeatedly failed since the expiration of the Clinton “large” magazine ban in 2004.

Firearms designed to use magazines that hold more than ten rounds have been around for more than a hundred years. Today they constitute a majority of all new firearms manufactured, imported and sold in the United States, for what the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), called the central purpose of the Second Amendment: self-defense. While gun control supporters claim that the magazines are unnecessary for self-defense, millions of Americans disagree, and the Supreme Court has ruled in Heller that laws are unconstitutional if they prohibit firearms that are in common use for defensive purposes.

Moreover, studies have shown that magazine bans don’t reduce crime. The congressionally-mandated study of the 1994-2004 federal “large” magazine “ban” concluded that its 10-round limit on new magazines wasn’t a factor in multiple-victim or multiple-wound crimes. A follow-up study concluded that “relatively few attacks involve more than 10 shots fired,” and “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.” And a majority of law enforcement in the United States acknowledges that banning standard-capacity magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds will not increase public safety.

A person attacked in a parking lot, or at home in the middle of the night, will probably have only the magazine within the firearm. No one should be arbitrarily limited in the number of rounds he or she can have for self-defense.

The NRA opposes this legislation and will continue to fight attempts in Congress to limit magazine capacity.

As I type this, each and every co-sponsor of this legislation is a Democrat (16 in the Senate and 107 in the House).

You can track the status of Senate Bill 407 here and House Bill 752 here via Congress.gov.

Permission has been granted by the NRA-ILA to reproduce the above.

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

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Survival And Prosperity
Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Est. 2010, Chicagoland, USA

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