credit rating agencies

State Of Illinois Downgraded By Fitch Ratings

Fitch Ratings, a major U.S. credit rating agency, announced this afternoon it had downgraded the State of Illinois. From their news release:

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the following ratings of the state of Illinois:

Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+;
$25.9 billion in outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’;
–$431 million Illinois Sports Facilities Authority sports facilities bonds (state tax supported) to ‘BBB-‘from ‘BBB’;
–$2.6 billion Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority McCormick Place expansion project bonds to ‘BBB-‘ from ‘BBB’;
–$267.8 million city of Chicago motor fuel tax revenue bonds to ‘BBB-‘ from ‘BBB’.

The Rating Watch Negative is maintained…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

With this downgrade, Illinois’ new credit rating is just two notches above “junk” status.

Fitch noted:

The downgrade of Illinois’s IDR and related ratings reflects the unprecedented failure of the state to enact a full budget for two consecutive years and the financial implications of spending far in excess of available revenues, which has resulted in increased accumulated liabilities and reduced financial flexibility. Even if the current attempts at a resolution to the extended impasse prove successful, Fitch believes that the failure to act to date has fundamentally weakened the state’s financial profile….

Fitch expects to resolve the Rating Watch within the next six months based on an assessment of the state’s fiscal trajectory as it starts fiscal 2018. If the state continues on the current path, a further downgrade would be warranted

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

You can read the entire Fitch Ratings news release here on their website.

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

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Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 Bonds, Borrowing, Credit, Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Spending Comments Off on State Of Illinois Downgraded By Fitch Ratings

Moody’s On Chicago Public Schools Crisis: Consider Tax Levy, Pension Contribution Stoppage, Or Bankruptcy

“Chicago and New York rank at the bottom of a new analysis of fiscal strength based primarily on data from 2015 financial reports issued by the cities themselves. The analysis includes 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000.

Chicago’s position at the bottom of the ranking is no surprise to anyone who follows municipal finance. The Windy City has become a poster child for financial mismanagement, having suffered a series of ratings downgrades in recent years. Aside from having thin reserves and large volumes of outstanding debt, Chicago is notorious for its underfunded pension plans…”

The Fiscal Times, January 9, 2107

Moody’s Investors Service recently weighed in on Chicago’s well-publicized financial crisis. Last Thursday its Global Credit Research division published the following on the Moody’s website:

While unfunded pension liabilities will continue weighing on the City of Chicago’s (Ba1 negative) credit profile, plans to significantly increase contributions with higher taxes is a favorable departure from prior funding practices. However, the liquidity crisis at Chicago Public Schools (CPS — B3 negative) is worsening amid a continued budget impasse at the state level, Moody’s Investors Service says in two new research reports released today…

In “City of Chicago: Frequently Asked Questions,” Moody’s says despite the city’s expanding economy, revenue growth, and healthy liquidity, its pension burden is likely to remain among the highest of any rated, major local government for many years.

“While Chicago’s recent tax increases will provide revenue to significantly increase pension funding, the city’s unfunded pension liabilities exceed seven times its revenue and are projected to grow for at least 15 more years,” says Matt Butler, Vice President of Moody’s…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The well-known credit rating agency added this about the city’s public school system:

In a separate report, “Chicago Public Schools: Frequently Asked Questions,” Moody’s states CPS’ fiscal pressures are intensifying due to depletion of reserves following years of imbalanced operations, unrealistic budget assumptions, and escalating pension costs…

Moody’s says CPS could consider more difficult options to address its finances should the State of Illinois (Baa2 negative) be unable or unwilling to provide additional relief: levy for debt service on GO alternate revenue bonds, stop making employer pension contributions, or seek state authorization to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

MarketWatch news editor Rachel Koning Beals expanded on Moody’s suggestions for dealing with the CPS situation. She wrote Saturday:

Moody’s has a revised shortlist of painful fixes for the public school system in Chicago.

One idea is to approve another increasingly politically unpopular property-tax levy to pay off debt, as the nation’s third-largest school district just issued another batch of high-interest bonds.

The second idea from the credit-ratings agency is to skip a pension payment to the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, which would come just months after the district and its teacher‘s union hammered out an 11th-hour contract to avoid a second labor strike in a span of four years.

And last resort? Just declare bankruptcy already

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Who’s the say the City will act on any of these suggestions (at least, right away)? That being said, Chicago taxpayers and CPS employees/retirees might want to take heed of all this.

Head on over to the Moody’s Investors Service website here to read the entire release from the Global Credit Research division. It ain’t pretty.

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

Source:

Koning Beals, Rachel. “Maybe Chicago schools should declare bankruptcy and get it over with, says Moody’s.” MarketWatch. 14 Jan. 2017. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/maybe-chicago-schools-should-declare-bankruptcy-and-get-it-over-with-says-moodys-2017-01-13). 16 Jan. 2017.

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Monday, January 16th, 2017 Bankruptcy, Bonds, Debt Crisis, Education, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes Comments Off on Moody’s On Chicago Public Schools Crisis: Consider Tax Levy, Pension Contribution Stoppage, Or Bankruptcy

SP Intel Report- November 11, 2015

Chicagoland

Moody’s Predicts Chicago’s Unfunded Pension Liabilities Could Grow For At Least Another Decade

Regrettably, the City of Chicago’s pension crisis is far from being resolved. From a press release out of Moody’s Global Credit Research division Tuesday:

New York, November 10, 2015 — Today, Moody’s Investors Service released a scenario analysis of the City of Chicago’s (Ba1 negative) possible pension funding paths. The scenarios incorporate the city’s recently adopted property tax increase as well as the outcomes of two key decisions pending with the State of Illinois (Baa1 negative) and the Illinois Supreme Court. The analysis indicates that, despite significantly increasing its contributions to its pension plans, Chicago’s unfunded pension liabilities could grow, at a minimum, for another ten years.

“Chicago’s statutory pension contributions will remain insufficient to arrest growth in unfunded pension liabilities for many years under each scenario,” Moody’s AVP-Analyst Matthew Butler says in the new report, “Chicago’s Pension Roadmap: A Scenario Analysis.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for empashis)

You can read the entire press release on Moody’s website here.

National

U.S. Adults Over 30 Are Less Happy Than Their Predecessors

I spotted the following yesterday on the MarketWatch website. Catey Hill reported Monday night:

It all goes downhill after 30 — at least when it comes to happiness.

“Adults over 30 are less happy than their predecessors,” concludes a study published online Thursday in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, which examined happiness data from more than 50,000 adults, gleaned from the General Social Survey, carried out by NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan, independent research organization, which has collected information about American adults since 1972.

From 2010 to 2014, adults over 30 had an average happiness score of just 2.18, compared with 2.24 a decade ago. That’s significant considering happiness scores were measured on a tiny scale from just 1 to 3, with 1 being “not too happy” and 3 being “very happy.” (The data used five-year cohort periods so that single year fluctuations were smoothed out.)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

A graph within the article depicted happiness scores by age over time. Something stood out right away for me looking at the measure for the “30 or older” crowd. Happiness scores rose from around 1993 until 2001- then plummeted ever since. In 1993, I remember older classmates of mine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign saying the job market was pretty rough (but better than recent years where graduate school was a popular option). Lots of bad economic news as well back in 2001. Hill added later:

What’s perhaps even more interesting is that, for the first time ever, adults ages 18 to 29 were happier than adults over 30

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The authors weren’t sure why “younger adults are happier than older ones for the first time in at least 40 years.” I’d like to offer up one possible explanation for some in that demographic:


“Cartman sends his mother to the store”
YouTube Video

In all seriousness, I come across a lot of miserable stuff on a daily basis while conducting research for this blog and other projects. I try to keep upbeat by remembering:

1. While I still see a financial crash in store for us, I don’t envision the end of the world taking place. Although it could be the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI).
2. Life ain’t fair. Nobody’s perfect. Just do the best you can.
3. God’s got my back. And I’ll try to be the best Christian I can.

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

Source:

Hill, Catey. “Americans over 30 are more miserable than they’ve ever been.” MarketWatch. 9 Nov. 2015. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-over-30-are-more-miserable-than-theyve-ever-been-2015-11-09). 11 Nov. 2015.

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Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Demographics, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Health, Legal, Religion, Taxes, TEOTWAWKI Comments Off on SP Intel Report- November 11, 2015

SP Intel Report- October 26, 2015

Welcome to the inaugural post of the “SP Intel Report.” On October 15 I blogged big changes were coming to Survival And Prosperity starting October 19. I wrote:

Each day will begin with an “SP Intel Report” (if it’s warranted), where I’ll be focusing on current events locally (Chicagoland area), nationwide, and overseas which I think readers should be aware of…

As luck would have it, my computer crashed October 19, delaying the implementation of these changes.

One week later, I’ve managed to repair my laptop, and I’m back in the saddle again.

So off we go then…

Chicago

“If City Hall ‘loses’ downtown to the bad guys… you lose the tourists, their money, revenue… you get the point.”

Survival And Prosperity, May 4, 2011

The Chicago news media is reporting that two tourists from Minneapolis were robbed at knifepoint by three men near Oak Street Beach late Saturday evening. The male victim was stabbed during the holdup while trying to protect his girlfriend. Two of Chicago’s more upstanding residents have been charged with the crime (police are still looking for a third individual).

The last time I blogged about a tourist getting knifed downtown was back during the 2012 holiday season. Even though it’s been a while, I fear we’ll be hearing of similar incidents with increased regularity as the city’s financial health deteriorates and the Chicago Police Department keeps receiving lip service but not bodies (meaning manpower).

There will probably be plenty of the other based on recent trends.

Note to self. Study up on defense against knives.

Illinois

Speaking of deteriorating financial health, the State of Illinois was hammered by two of the major credit rating agencies in the past week. On October 19, Fitch Ratings announced in a press release:

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the rating on $26.8 billion in outstanding Illinois general obligation (GO) bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘.

In addition, the ratings on bonds related to the state based on its appropriation have been downgraded to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Three days later, Moody’s Investors Service stated in a release:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the State of Illinois’ $26.8 billion of general obligation bonds to Baa1 from A3, while also lowering ratings on the state’s sales-tax (Build Illinois) bonds to Baa1 from A3, and on the state’s subject to appropriation bonds (issued by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and for the state’s Civic Center program) to Baa2 from Baa1. The outlook for all of these obligations remains negative…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Keep in mind the following observations by Karen Pierog over on the Reuters website on October 22:

Both general obligation bond ratings are now just three steps above the “junk” level… The downgrade by Moody’s marked the 17th by major credit rating agencies for Illinois since 2003… Even before this week’s downgrades, Illinois had the lowest credit ratings among the 50 U.S. states. Ratings histories from the three major credit rating agencies indicate few states have ever had their GO ratings fall below the A level…

Faced with a $105 billion unfunded public pension liability and a bill backlog of around $7 billion, I suspect Illinoisans will be on the hook for some sort of tax hike(s) in the near future.

International

Any Survival And Prosperity readers skeptical about the future existence of the Internet? Personally, I won’t be surprised if it goes kaput one day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat of a techie (driven by needs, not wants) and love the Internet. But I’m not sold on its staying power due to frailties with its infrastructure. A couple of years ago I remember reading about an elderly Georgian woman accidently cutting off neighboring Armenia’s access to the World Wide Web for up to five hours- using only a spade. And now there’s this from The New York Times website this past Sunday. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So the Russians could switch off the Internet. Or a rogue Uncle Sam could do it and blame the Russkies.

I told my girlfriend her brilliant nephew should get into the BBS game. Wave of the future?


“Apple II on a BBS in 2014!”
YouTube Video

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

Sources:

Sobol, Rosemary Regina. “$500K, $950K bails set for 2 accused of robbery, stabbing near Oak Street Beach.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Oct. 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-2-held-following-armed-robbery-stabbing-near-oak-street-beach-20151026-story.html). 26 Oct. 2015.

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 2-Illinois bond rating cut again over budget impasse.” Reuters. 22 Oct. 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/22/illinois-downgrade-moodys-idUSL1N12M2L120151022). 26 Oct. 2015.

Sanger, David E. and Schmitt, Eric. “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort.” The New York Times. 25 Oct. 2015. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/world/europe/russian-presence-near-undersea-cables-concerns-us.html?_r=1). 26 Oct. 2015.

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Monday, October 26th, 2015 Bonds, Communications, Credit, Crime, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Europe, Foreign Policy, Government, Knives, Public Safety, Self-Defense, SP Intel Report, Taxes, Technology, Tourism, War Comments Off on SP Intel Report- October 26, 2015

Crain’s Chicago Business: Pension Reform Ruling Could Cost Taxpayers Extra $200 Million A Year Through End Of Decade

In my Sunday post about Chicago’s pension reform legislation being ruled unconstitutional, I blogged:

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

How many hundreds of millions are we talking about here?

Greg Hinz wrote in his blog on the Crain’s Chicago Business website Monday:

The court decision throwing out a deal to refinance two Chicago pension funds appears to be among the most costly in the city’s history, in some ways ranking right up there with the Great Chicago Fire.

Exact figures are not available and vary some depending on who’s doing the estimating. But based on statements by city officials and documents filed by the pension funds themselves, it’s likely that the decision by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak will cost city taxpayers around $200 million a year through the end of the decade—and will keep rising for decades thereafter.

“You’d have to go back to either the Depression or the Great Fire to find a comparable situation in which the city faced either greater challenges or more painful decisions,” Civic Federation President Laurence Msall said. “It’s clearly going to result in increased taxes and reduced services.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Remember, that additional $200 million hit to Chicago taxpayers would come on top of addressing fire and police pensions. And bailing out the Chicago Public Schools, which had its credit rating reduced to junk status today by Fitch Ratings. In May, I noted Moody’s downgraded the Chicago Board of Education (the primary debt issuers of CPS) three notches to junk.

You can read Hinz’s entire blog post on the Crain’s Chicago Business website here. If I were still a Chicago resident, I’d probably find it disturbing. But at least I’d be clued in as to what could be coming down the line.

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

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Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Depression, Education, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Taxes Comments Off on Crain’s Chicago Business: Pension Reform Ruling Could Cost Taxpayers Extra $200 Million A Year Through End Of Decade

Judge Rules Chicago’s Pension Reform Legislation Unconstitutional

Here’s the latest on Chicago’s public pension crisis. Hal Dardick and Rick Pearson reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said it will appeal a Cook County judge’s decision Friday that ruled unconstitutional a state law reducing municipal worker pension benefits in exchange for a city guarantee to fix their underfunded retirement systems.

The 35-page ruling by Judge Rita Novak, slapping down the city’s arguments point by point, could have wide-ranging effects if upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court. Her decision appeared to also discredit efforts at the state and Cook County levels to try to curb pension benefits to rein in growing costs that threaten funding for government services.

The issue of underfunded pensions, and how to restore their financial health, is crucial for the city and its taxpayers. The city workers and laborers funds at issue in Friday’s ruling are more than $8 billion short of what’s needed to meet obligations — and are at risk of going broke within 13 years — after many years of low investment returns fueled by recession and inadequate funding.

Without reducing benefits paid to retired workers, or requiring current workers to pay more, taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Chicagoans- let that last line from Dardick and Pearson sink in real good:

“Taxpayers could eventually be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual payments to those city funds — before the even worse-funded police and fire retirement accounts are factored into the taxing equation…”

And the City’s response to the ruling? Mayor Emanuel’s Press Office countered Friday:

Statement of City of Chicago Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton on SB1922

“While we are disappointed by the trial court’s ruling, we have always recognized that this matter will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court. We now look forward to having our arguments heard there. We continue to strongly believe that the City’s pension reform legislation, unlike the State legislation held unconstitutional this past spring, does not diminish or impair pension benefits, but rather preserves and protects them. This law not only rescues the municipal and laborer pension funds from certain insolvency, but ensures that, over time, they will be fully funded and the 61,000 affected City workers and retirees will receive the pensions they were promised.”

As to the City of Chicago’s credit rating possibly getting whacked after the decision? Timothy W. Martin reported on The Wall Street Journal website Friday afternoon:

Moody’s said Friday’s ruling had no effect on Chicago’s bond grade. But rival Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, which currently has an investment-grade rating for the city, said that “regardless of the ultimate outcome” of Mr. Emanuel’s pension law, it “will likely lower” its Chicago rating in the next six months, unless city leaders chart out a solution to address its pension problems.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Like I’ve been saying for a couple years now, that proverbial brick wall keeps approaching for Chicago.

Since City Hall can’t get its affairs in order, Chicagoans might want to look at straightening out theirs if they intend to stick around for the long haul.

Sources:

Dardick, Hal and Pearson, Rick. “Judge finds city’s changes to pension funds unconstitutional.” Chicago Tribune. 24 July 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-chicago-pension-ruling-met-20150724-story.html). 25 July 2015.

Martin, Timothy W. “Chicago’s Pension Overhaul Plan Tossed Out by Judge.” The Wall Street Journal. 24 July 2015. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-rules-2014-law-to-reduce-chicago-pension-shortfall-unconstitutional-1437754525). 25 July 2015.

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Sunday, July 26th, 2015 Bonds, Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government, Legal, Taxes Comments Off on Judge Rules Chicago’s Pension Reform Legislation Unconstitutional

S&P Cuts Chicago’s Credit Rating Twice In Less Than 2 Months

Surprise, surprise. The City of Chicago’s credit rating was lowered yet again.

This time, it’s Standard & Poor’s that did the cutting.

Karen Pierog and Tanvi Mehta reported on the Reuters website last night:

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut Chicago’s credit rating one notch to BBB-plus with a negative outlook on Wednesday, citing the windy city’s nagging structural budget deficit and the lack of a plan to close it.

S&P analyst John Kenward said the U.S.’ third-largest city needs “a credible, public, detailed plan” to deal with budget gaps projected to grow to $588 million in fiscal 2017, largely due to escalating contributions to its police and fire fighter retirement funds.

S&P also warned Chicago’s general obligation bond rating may fall further if a credible plan does not surface within six months…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

According to the S&P website, “BBB” indicates:

Adequate protection parameters. However, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity of the obligor to meet its financial commitment on the obligation.

It was less than two months ago that Standard & Poor’s last downgraded the City of Chicago’s credit rating. I blogged on May 17:

Standard & Poor’s joined in on the downgrade parade later in the week. From a press release Friday:

Chicago, IL GO Bond Ratings Lowered To #A-# From #A+#, Placed On CreditWatch Due To Short-Term Liquidity Pressure
CHICAGO–15 May–Standard & Poor’s

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) May 14, 2015–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’ on the city of Chicago’s outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds, and placed the ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications…

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Mehta, Tanvi and Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-S&P downgrades Chicago’s GO bond rating to BBB-plus.” Reuters. 8 July 2015. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/08/usa-chicago-sp-idUSL3N0ZO60H20150708). 9 July 2015.

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Thursday, July 9th, 2015 Bonds, Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Fiscal Policy, Government Comments Off on S&P Cuts Chicago’s Credit Rating Twice In Less Than 2 Months

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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Sunday, June 21st, 2015 Borrowing, Credit, Debt Crisis, Fiscal Policy, Government, Mainstream Media, Political Parties, Propaganda, Taxes Comments Off on Chicago Tribune: ‘Chicagoans Should Consider A Modest Property Tax Increase Inevitable’

Moody’s Downgrades Cook County’s Credit Rating, Issues Negative Outlook

The following is kind of stale, but the local press didn’t really publicize it and Cook County residents are entitled to know the financial health of the local government unit in these uncertain times. The Global Credit Research division of Moody’s announced on their website back on June 5:

Rating Action: Moody’s downgrades Cook County, IL’s GO to A2 from A1; outlook negative

A2 rating applies to $3.6B of GO debt

New York, June 05, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to A2 from A1 the rating on Cook County, IL’s general obligation (GO) debt. The county has $3.6 billion in GO debt outstanding. The outlook remains negative…

The Global Credit Research division explained:

The A2 rating incorporates credit pressures associated with Cook County’s unfunded pension liabilities. Based on the Illinois Supreme Court’s May 8 overruling of the State of Illinois’ (A3 negative) pension reforms, we perceive increased risk that the county’s options for reducing unfunded pension liabilities have narrowed considerably. As it currently stands, Cook County-despite its home rule status-has little direct control over its single largest liability. Whether or not the statute that governs Cook County’s pension plan stands, we expect pension-related costs will place increasing strain on the county’s financial operations. Furthermore, approximately half of Cook County’s tax base is highly leveraged by the debt and unfunded pension liabilities of the City of Chicago (Ba1 negative) and the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) (Ba3 negative). We believe that the revenue demands of these entities could place practical limitations on the county’s ability and willingness to increase revenue to fund its pension costs. Other credit challenges for the county include enterprise risks inherent in operating the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS)…

As for that negative outlook:

The negative outlook reflects our view that Cook County’s credit quality could weaken given continued uncertainty in the county’s future pension funding framework. Our outlook on the county’s credit is also informed by our expectation of growth in the pension costs of the local governments that share half of the county’s tax base. Finally, the negative outlook incorporates continued pressures in the health care sector, improved financial results for CCHHS notwithstanding…

On June 8, the major U.S. credit rating agency also announced a downgrade of the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s general obligation debt to A2 from A1, with a negative outlook as well.

You can read that entire June 5 Moody’s rating action on their website here.

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

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Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 Credit, Debt Crisis, Entitlements, Government Comments Off on Moody’s Downgrades Cook County’s Credit Rating, Issues Negative Outlook

Chicago’s Credit Rating Lowered By Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s

The three major U.S. credit rating agencies have downgraded the City of Chicago this past week. Last Tuesday, Moody’s announced on its website:

Rating Action: Moody’s downgrades Chicago, IL to Ba1, affecting $8.9B of GO, sales, and motor fuel tax debt; outlook negative

Also downgrades senior and second lien water bonds to Baa1 and Baa2 and downgrades senior and second lien sewer bonds to Baa2 and Baa3, affecting $3.8B; outlook negative

New York, May 12, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba1 from Baa2 the rating on the City of Chicago, IL’s $8.1 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt; $542 million of outstanding sales tax revenue debt; and $268 million of outstanding and authorized motor fuel tax revenue debt…

In case readers didn’t notice, that was a two-notch downgrade from “Baa2” to “Ba1.”

According to Moody’s “US Municipal Ratings,” “Ba” indicates “Issuers or issues rated Ba demonstrate below-average creditworthiness relative to other US municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.”

In other words, “junk.”

A day later, Moody’s was at it again, lowering the Chicago Board of Education’s credit rating. From their site on May 13:

Moody’s downgrades Chicago Board of Education, IL’s GO to Ba3; outlook negative

Ba3 rating applies to $6.2 billion of GO debt

New York, May 13, 2015 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded to Ba3 from Baa3 the rating on the Chicago Board of Education, IL’s $6.2 billion of outstanding general obligation (GO) debt. The Chicago Board of Education is the primary debt issuer for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) (the district). The outlook remains negative…

A three-notch downgrade. And even worse “junk.”

Standard & Poor’s joined in on the downgrade parade later in the week. From a press release Friday:

Chicago, IL GO Bond Ratings Lowered To #A-# From #A+#, Placed On CreditWatch Due To Short-Term Liquidity Pressure

CHICAGO–15 May–Standard & Poor’s

CHICAGO (Standard & Poor’s) May 14, 2015–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its rating to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’ on the city of Chicago’s outstanding general obligation (GO) bonds, and placed the ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications…

According to the S&P website, “A” indicates:

Somewhat more susceptible to the adverse effects of changes in circumstances and economic conditions than obligations in higher-rated categories. However, the obligor’s capacity to meet its financial commitment on the obligation is still strong.

Fitch Ratings was the last of the three major credit rating agencies to the party, releasing the following Friday on their website:

Fitch Downgrades Chicago, IL’s ULTGOs and Sales Tax Bonds to ‘BBB+’; Ratings on Negative Watch

Fitch Ratings-New York-15 May 2015: Fitch Ratings has downgraded the ratings on the following Chicago, Illinois obligations:

–$8.1 billion unlimited tax GO bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$546.5 million (accreted value) sales tax bonds to ‘BBB+’ from ‘A-‘;
–$200 million commercial paper notes, 2002 program series A (tax exempt) and B (taxable) bank bond ratings to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB+’.

At the same time, the ratings have been placed on Negative Watch…

According to the Fitch Ratings website, “BBB” indicates:

Expectations of default risk are currently low. The capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.

You can read the May 12 Moody’s press release on their website here. The May 13 Moody’s release is here. Standard & Poor’s press release can be found here (on thailand4.com) and the Fitch Ratings release on their website here.

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

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Sunday, May 17th, 2015 Bonds, Credit, Debt Crisis, Education, Government Comments Off on Chicago’s Credit Rating Lowered By Fitch Ratings, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s
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