Illinois House of Representatives

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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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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Cook County Public Pension Fix Could Mean Property Tax Hike

Blog readers in Cook County, Illinois, should prepare themselves for the possibility of higher property taxes shortly. Hal Dardick and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website Friday:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is trying to revive a plan to overhaul government worker pensions, with supporters arguing the proposal is vastly different from changes to state retirement benefits recently struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court.

The proposal would cut benefits and raise retirement ages but also guarantee health care benefits for workers when they retire. It calls for the county to put almost $147 million more a year into the pension fund, though Preckwinkle continues to be vague about how she’ll fund that increase by repeatedly saying “all options are on the table.”

If the County Board chooses to foot the bill with a property tax increase, the average homeowner would pay up to $65 more a year starting in 2017, according to one internal county document the Tribune obtained when Preckwinkle sought the same legislation last year.

That measure was approved by the Senate last year but stalled in the House. It is now scheduled to be heard by a panel of House lawmakers next week…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Readers shouldn’t be surprised about the prospect of higher property taxes. I blogged back on January 13:

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also gave a speech yesterday in which she hinted at county residents having to make future sacrifices. John Byrne reported on the Chicago Tribune website Monday:

Preckwinkle gave a speech to the City Club of Chicago about her first-term achievements and laid out a blueprint for her second four years in office. Asked afterward about the likelihood she will be forced to raise taxes, Preckwinkle said only that it will be “a challenge” to meet the county’s financial obligations.

“We have significant challenges, both around the spike in our debt obligations and our pension obligations, and my charge to our chief financial officer is that he has to do everything he can to be creative in figuring out how to address these problems,” she said…

Preckwinkle crafted a $4 billion budget for 2015 that includes no new taxes, fines or fees. She has warned that the 2016 budget will be far trickier to balance because debt payments will increase and the county could need to come up with $144 million more to pay into the county workers retirement system if she gets the pension fund changes she has asked for from the General Assembly.

“I can’t predict now, because we don’t even have a pension bill, how much it’s going to cost or what it’s going to take, but it’s going to be a real challenge, I’ll say that,” she said Monday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

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

Source:

Dardick, Hal and Garcia, Monique. “Preckwinkle tries again on Cook County pension changes.” Chicago Tribune. 15 May 2015. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-cook-county-pension-proposal-met-20150515-story.html). 17 May 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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Illinois Governor Offers To Deploy State Police To Chicago

“State lawmakers, Rep. John Fritchey, 11th, and Rep. LaShawn Ford, 8th, are calling for Governor Quinn to deploy the Illinois National Guard to Chicago’s violent areas… 113 people have died in Chicago so far this year.”

-NBC Chicago website, April 26, 2010

“Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Rainbow PUSH Coalition call for immediate Federal Intervention and Homeland Security in Chicago as January homicide totals exceeded 45.”

-Rainbow PUSH Coalition press release, February 1, 2013

“To reduce the homicides and shootings plaguing Chicago streets, elected officials should consider calling on the state and federal governments for help, even the National Guard if necessary, said a retired Army lieutenant general who spearheaded the military response after Hurricane Katrina.

‘Just like we do with any disaster. When the tornado comes, or the floods come, the federal government comes in to help,’ Russel L. Honore said Thursday at a news conference in Chicago.”

Chicago Tribune website, February 21, 2013

“Something tells me it may just be a matter of time before certain individuals start calling again for the Illinois National Guard and/or U.S. Department of Homeland Security to patrol the streets of the ‘Windy City.’”

Survival And Prosperity, May 27, 2014

In the wake of an incredibly bloody holiday weekend in the city of Chicago, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D-Chicago) has offered to deploy the Illinois State Police to the area. From The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website yesterday:

Gov. Pat Quinn says he would be prepared to deploy state police to help address Chicago violence if Mayor Rahm Emanuel requests it.

Over the years Illinois State Police have assisted authorities in Chicago and East St. Louis fight street violence.

Quinn told reporters Tuesday after an unrelated event that he’ll only do so if Emanuel asks and won’t “impose anything” on any municipality…

No word yet from City Hall regarding Governor Quinn’s offer. As I doubt there will be, as even giving it the slightest bit of consideration might give off the impression Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in over his head with this violence.

Not good if you’ve got higher political aspirations, which I think he does.

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

Source:

“Quinn: ISP could deploy in Chicago if mayor asks.” Associated Press. 8 July 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140708/NEWS/140709484). 9 July 2014.

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Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 Crime, Government, Military, Public Safety No Comments

U.S. Senator Michelle Obama (D-IL)?

“SUPER WIN FOR CHICAGO AND AMERICA!”

-Comment on website of Chicago NBC affiliate Channel 5 tonight regarding speculation surrounding a U.S. Senate run by First Lady Michelle Obama

Could First Lady Michelle Obama be our next United States Senator here in Illinois?

I spotted the following on The Great Debate blog on Reuters.com earlier this evening. Keith Koffler wrote last night:

Speculation about a possible political future for Michelle Obama has naturally centered on the White House. But that’s the wrong place — at least for now.

Illinois has a Republican senator, Mark Kirk, and he is up for reelection in 2016. He’ll be formidable, particularly given his brave recovery from a stroke. But Illinois is a heavily Democratic state, and the race could be close.

No Illinois Democratic candidate would bring the star power and nationwide fundraising capacity that Obama would.

She has proven herself a superb speaker on behalf of her pet projects and is now a veteran campaigner for her husband. She’s also remained highly popular — even as the president’s ratings have plummeted.

She could represent the Democrats’ best chance to pick up a desperately needed — and winnable — seat. A December 2012 Public Policy Polling survey put her ahead of Kirk, 51 percent to 40 percent. Democratic leaders’ pressure on her to run might get intense…

Personally, I believe that if Mrs. Obama runs for Senator Kirk’s seat, she might just win it.

Nothing against Kirk. But Koffler isn’t kidding when says the “Land of Lincoln” is a heavily Democratic state. A super-majority in both the Illinois House and Senate attests to that. And there’s always “The Machine,” which is still in good working order in Chicago.

That’s not the say the city or state is, though.

I previously thought the Obamas would bid farewell to the “Windy City” after POTUS leaves the Oval Office. But if Michelle decides a Senate seat is something she wants, then it could be several more years still…

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

Source:

Koffler, Keith. “Is Michelle running for the Senate?” The Great Debate. 4 Jun. 2014. (http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/06/05/is-michelle-running-for-the-senate/). 5 Jun. 2014.

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Thursday, June 5th, 2014 Government, Political Parties 2 Comments

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Vows To Get State Income Tax Hike Made Permanent

The Illinois House of Representatives approved a $35.7 billion state spending plan yesterday which didn’t factor in funds from a 2011 temporary income tax hike being made permanently available. I surmised Tuesday:

So does this mean Illinois Democrats have abandoned their push to make the temporary income tax hike permanent? I doubt it. This is “Madiganistan,” after all. And what Mike wants, Mike gets.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of maneuvering being carried out to eventually land these funds. Perhaps another “temporary” increase in such taxes sometime after the November 2014 election, with buzz words such as “fiscal emergency” and “for the children” being used to justify the measure?

Monique Garcia, Ray Long, and Maura Zurick reported on the Chicago Tribune website last night:

Speaker Michael Madigan acknowledged the budget proposal would leave unfinished business and vowed to spend the summer and fall working to get the income tax hike made permanent to provide more money to run state government. The approach also ensures the governor’s race will continue to be framed up by opposite positions on a tax hike Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner have staked out.

“My expectation is that this issue will be taken into the general election and I think the governor will be supportive of an extension of the income tax increase through the general election,” Madigan said. “My expectation is that Mr. Rauner will be against. So you’ll have a clear line of division going into the election. And people can make their choice.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Hmmm. Should Governor Quinn be re-elected, one more buzz word I suspect Illinoisans might hear before legislative action is taken by the Democrats to make the income tax hike permanent is “mandate,” as in “Illinois voters have given us a mandate to make the temporary income tax hike permanent during this fiscal emergency. Remember- it’s for the children!”

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

Source:

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray and Zurick, Maura. “State budget would put off tough decisions until after election.” Chicago Tribune. 27 May 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-state-budget-would-put-off-tough-decisions-until-after-election-20140527,0,6506902.story). 28 May 2014.

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Illinois Democrats Abandoning Attempt To Make Temporary Income Tax Hike Permanent?

“In his election-year budget speech Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn called on lawmakers to make permanent the 67 percent temporary income tax increase they approved in 2011…

Quinn’s budget speech was the first time he directly addressed what should be done about the pending expiration of much of the temporary tax increase. When lawmakers approved raising the state’s personal income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent, they stipulated that the rate should drop to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2015…”

The State Journal-Register (Springfield), March 26, 2014

There’s news coming out of Springfield that the Democrats are preparing an Illinois state budget that accounts for the expiration of the temporary income tax hike they approved in 2011. Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register website last night:

House Democrats are preparing a new state budget that allows most of the temporary income tax increase to expire on schedule at the end of the year.

“Today we’re going to have our (budget negotiators) working toward a middle-of-the-road budget that would be consistent with the revenue estimates which have been adopted by the House,” House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said Monday. “The income tax increase would not be extended.”

From an Associated Press piece earlier today:

House Speaker Michael Madigan emerged from a Memorial Day caucus meeting and told reporters he was dropping the idea of making the 5 percent income tax permanent — and crafting a budget blueprint that holds the line on spending but is not the “doomsday” plan the House overwhelmingly rejected Friday.

“We’re going to call upon the agencies and those that receive appropriations from the Legislature to live within their means,” said Madigan, a Chicago Democrat. “We understand the way this is… Let’s take a good hard look at it and get the job done.”

So does this mean Illinois Democrats have abandoned their push to make the temporary income tax hike permanent? I doubt it. This is “Madiganistan,” after all. And what Mike wants, Mike gets.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of maneuvering being carried out to eventually land these funds. Perhaps another “temporary” increase in such taxes sometime after the November 2014 election, with buzz words such as “fiscal emergency” and “for the children” being used to justify the measure?

Stay tuned…

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

Sources:

Finke, Doug. “House Democrats work on budget without tax increase.” The State Journal-Register. 26 May 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140526/NEWS/140529531/). 27 May 2014.

“Illinois Democrats give up on tax-hike extension.” Associated Press. 27 May 2014. (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140527/NEWS02/140529846/illinois-democrats-give-up-on-tax-hike-extension#). 27 May 2014.

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Halted For Now

Remember that “millionaire tax” Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) had been pushing which would have affected an estimated 13,000 or so millionaires residing in the state?

It’s toast for now.

Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website yesterday afternoon:

House Speaker Michael Madigan has pulled the plug on his proposed constitutional amendment to impose a surcharge on incomes over $1 million a year.

The Chicago Democrat made the move Wednesday after it became obvious the amendment couldn’t muster the 71 votes it needed in the House to pass.

Although Democrats hold 71 seats in the House, not all of them were on board with the amendment…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Despite the setback, many Illinois Democrats in office will tell their supporters that they at least tried to “spread the wealth around” more in moving the legislation this far.

As the economic climate deteriorates nationally, I expect to see even more of these targeted income tax hikes being proposed- along with its reintroduction in “Madiganistan.”

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

Source:

Finke, Doug. “Madigan dropping plan to tax Illinois millionaires.” The State Journal-Register. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140409/NEWS/140409326/-1/json). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Chicago Public Pension Crisis Latest

Last Tuesday, I blogged about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to address some of the City’s public pension woes via larger contributions by City employees and $50 million tax increases for five straight years- beginning next year and continuing through 2019- for Chicago property owners.

There’s been a lot of chatter regarding this proposal and other pension “reform” activity today. Karen Pierog reported on the Reuters website:

Legislation to ease funding shortfalls in two of Chicago’s four retirement systems is a modestly positive credit step but not a permanent fix, Moody’s Investors Service said on Monday

Moody’s said that if enacted into law, the measure would immediately reduce the unfunded liabilities in the two funds.

“However, we expect that the (liability) would then escalate for a number of years before declining. Accrued liabilities would exceed plan assets for years to come, and if annual investment returns fall short of the assumed 7.5 percent, the risk of plan insolvency may well reappear,” the credit rating agency said in a report…

After breezing through an Illinois House committee on April 2, the bill has stalled. Moody’s said that even if the bill makes it out of the legislature, Governor Pat Quinn must sign it. The law would then face potential challenges to its legality under the Illinois constitution, which prohibits the impairment of retirement benefits for public sector workers…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So will the Illinois Governor and fellow Chicago Democrat sign off on Mayor Emanuel’s proposed legislation?

John Byrne and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this afternoon:

Gov. Pat Quinn today came out against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to raise Chicago property taxes and cut retirement benefits as a way to shore up some of Chicago’s government worker pension systems.

The re-election seeking Democratic governor called the bill floating around Springfield “a sketch” that “kept changing by the hour” and blasted the property tax as a “lousy tax” because it is not based on the ability to pay…

“I don’t think that’s a good way to go,” Quinn said of hiking property taxes. “And I say it today and I’ll say it tomorrow, they’ve got to come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue. But if they just think they are going to gouge property tax owners, no can do. We’re not going to go that way.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, as I pointed out in last week’s post about Chicago’s public pension crisis:

There’s still a state-required $600 million contribution due next year from the City to stabilize police and fire pension funds that this proposed property tax hike doesn’t address and has to be dealt with…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Plus, I read the following this morning by Chacour Koop on the website of The State Journal-Register (Springfield):

After addressing Illinois’ own employee pension crisis, lawmakers now face an equally challenging task with the state’s cities, as mayors demand help with underfunded police and firefighter pensions before the growing cost “chokes” budgets and forces local tax increases.

The nine largest cities in Illinois after Chicago have a combined $1.5 billion in unfunded debt to public safety workers’ pension systems. Police and fire retirement funds for cities statewide have an average of just 55 percent of the money needed to meet current obligations to workers and retirees…

The problems — a history of underfunding, the expansion of job benefits and the prospect of crushing future payments — mirror those that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned about when he asked the legislature for relief last week.

In 2016, state law requires cities to make required contribution increases — in some cases, more than an additional $1 million annually — so they’ll reach 90 percent funding by 2040. If they don’t, the state will begin doing it for them, diverting grant money now used by cities elsewhere directly into the pension funds…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Just like the Illinois General Assembly- dominated by Democrats- barely passed legislation on December 3, 2013, that was touted as a “fix” for the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis (it isn’t), something tells me an accommodation may be reached with fellow Democrats running the City of Chicago so they don’t have to pay the full amount of the state-required $600 million contribution due next year to stabilize police and fire pension funds.

That goes for those large Illinois communities as well.

Watch all the back-patting go on should that “fix” materialize as well.

And the inevitable “blowback” down the road.

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

UPDATE: From Fran Spielman over on the Chicago Sun-Times website early Tuesday morning:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan Monday stripped out controversial language from city pension legislation that had authorized the City Council to impose a property-tax hike, putting the stalled measure back on the fast-track at the state Capitol.

Madigan, D-Chicago, filed an amendment to Senate Bill 1922 after the House adjourned Monday without taking any action on the stalled legislation. Sources now expect the legislation to be voted upon as early as Tuesday.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Sources:

Pierog, Karen. “UPDATE 1-Proposed Chicago pension changes positive step but no fix -Moody’s.” Reuters. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/07/usa-chicago-moodys-idUSL2N0MZ1AP20140407). 7 Apr. 2014.

Byrne, John and Garcia, Monique. “Quinn blasts Emanuel’s property tax hike for pensions.” Chicago Tribune. 7 Apr. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-quinn-blasts-emanuels-property-tax-hike-for-pensions-20140407,0,5432729.story). 7 Apr. 2014.

Koop, Chacour. “Illinois’ next pension issue: Police, firefighter funds.” Associated Press. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140406/NEWS/140409562/-1/json/?tag=1). 7 Apr. 2014.

Spielman, Fran. “Analysis: Rahm’s pension bill revisions solve—and create—problems.” Chicago Sun-Times. 8 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/analysis-rahm%E2%80%99s-pension-bill-revisions-solve%E2%80%94and-create%E2%80%94problems/mon-04072014-728pm). 8 Apr. 2014.

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Illinois Millionaire Tax Moves Out Of Committee, Goes To House For Vote

This Monday, I blogged about Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) pushing for an income tax hike on the estimated 13,000 or so millionaires residing in the state.

The proposed legislation is making progress in the Democrat-controlled Illinois General Assembly. Doug Finke reported on The State Journal-Register (Springfield) website last night:

An Illinois House committee Thursday signed off on a measure that would allow voters to decide if millionaires should pay more in state income taxes…

The committee voted along party lines to approve the proposed constitutional amendment by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, that would impose a 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million. Income up to $1 million would continue to be taxed at the state’s personal income tax rate, currently set at 5 percent…

The proposed amendment now goes to the full House, which must approve it by a three-fifths vote. The Senate will then have to approve it by the same margin for the issue to appear on the November ballot

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Opponents of the tax hike claim it not only unfairly penalizes successful residents of the state, but hurts everyone else in that it may drive away wealth from Illinois.

Speaker Madigan’s response? He was quoted by the Chicago Tribune last Friday as saying:

Well, if they’re in Illinois today, they’re probably so much in love with Illinois that they’re not going to leave.

Eye-roll please…

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

Sources:

Finke, Doug. “Millionaire tax amendment advances to House; progressive income tax rejected.” The State Journal-Register. 27 Mar. 2014. (http://www.sj-r.com/article/20140327/NEWS/140329457/-1/json/?tag=2). 28 Mar. 2014.

Garcia, Monique, Long, Ray, and Zurich, Maura. “Illinois Democrats go all-in on class warfare theme.” Chicago Tribune. 21 Mar. 2014. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-21/news/chi-speaker-madigan-proposes-asking-voters-to-raise-taxes-on-wealthy-20140320_1_tax-hike-bruce-rauner-income). 24 Mar. 2014.

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Statewide Gun Registration, Ammo ‘Control’ Bill Introduced In Illinois

The following Illinois gun/ammo “control” legislation made headlines in February, but it’s making the rounds again this week (probably due to its outrageousness?). From a press release on the website of Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago):

CHICAGO, IL – State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) introduced a bill requiring the registration of firearms in the State of Illinois.

“We’ve dealt for too long with gun violence in our neighborhoods, most often perpetrated by individuals who acquired the firearm through illicit means,” Cassidy said. “Registration is a common sense policy that ties the weapon to its buyer, preventing the types of straw purchasing that put guns into criminals hands. According to a University of Chicago Crime Lab Report, 45% of firearms used in crimes in our state were purchased legally in Illinois and then illegally transferred. Registration creates a safeguard against these transfers and significantly hinders the ability for criminals to acquire firearms.”

HB 4715, the Firearms Registration Act, would require registration of firearms upon purchase, and for firearms owned at the time of passage. The registration process would include a background check, and transfer to an individual without complying with registration would be a Class 2 felony…

Not only is Illinois House Bill 4715 calling for a gun registry, but also ammunition “control” as well. From the bill’s status page 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

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Since February 5, the bill has been with the House Rules Committee.

My guess is that it will emerge shortly after the next high-profile mass shooting.

You can view the current status of Illinois HB 4715 on the Illinois General Assembly here.

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

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Illinois Gun Owners To March, Lobby In State Capital Tomorrow

Wendesday, March 5, is Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day, or IGOLD. From the Illinois State Rifle Association website this morning:

All Illinois gun owners are invited to join in Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day (IGOLD) in Springfield in 2014. This is an annual event where everyone goes to lobby` their representatives in the Illinois House and Senate. IGOLD is sponsored by ISRA and IllinoisCarry.com. Other participating organizations are, Guns Save Life, Sangamon County Rifle Association, and the McHenry County Right To Carry Association. Get your local organization involved as well!

We will meet at the Prairie Capital Convention Center – Doors open at 10:45 with the program set to begin at 11:30 am. We will have a legislative briefing, then we will all march to the Capitol Building to locate and talk with our representatives.

Please join us for Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day, you won’t regret going…

More information on tomorrow’s event is located on the ISRA website here.

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

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Thoughts On Illinois State Lawmakers Passing Public Pension ‘Fix’

The Illinois General Assembly barely passed legislation yesterday that’s been touted to “fix” the state’s $100 billion public pension crisis.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has promised to sign SB0001, declared in a press release Tuesday:

Since I took the oath of office, I’ve pushed relentlessly for a comprehensive pension reform solution that would erase a $100 billion liability and restore fiscal stability to Illinois.

Today, we have won. The people of Illinois have won.

Not so fast, big guy.

First off, as I blogged yesterday, the Wall Street Journal recently picked apart the legislative “fix,” and concluded not only was it “fake” but:

Even under the most optimistic forecasts, these nips and tucks would only slim the state’s pension liability down to $80 billion- which is where it was after Governor Quinn signed de minimis fixes in spring 2010 to get him past that year’s election…

Second, this legislation is almost certainly headed to court, as in the Illinois Supreme Court. As I noted on December 1, a provision of the 1970 Illinois Constitution defines public pension benefits as “an enforceable contractual relationship” that “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

Even the top-ranking Democrat in the Illinois Senate wonders if SB0001 can pass legal muster. Ray Long and Monique Garcia reported on the Chicago Tribune website this morning:

Senate President John Cullerton, whose earlier union-backed plan to curb pension spending was stymied by House Speaker Michael Madigan, said he remained concerned that the package passed by lawmakers violated a state constitutional ban on diminishing or impairing public pension benefits.

Cullerton, whose Senate Democrats had been viewed as closer to the unions than Madigan’s House majority, said he viewed it important to get something before the courts to decide whether the approach is legal.

“I think the bill has serious constitutional problems, I’ve made that clear from the start, but now it’s in front of the court and they can decide,” Cullerton said.

And decide they will, meaning this supposed “fix” for the state’s public pension crisis might eventually amount to nothing.

I thought Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times summed it all up well. Brown wrote on the Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon from Springfield:

Oh, how I wish I could tell you that the long fight to fix Illinois’ grossly underfunded public pension plans was at an end with Tuesday’s historic votes by the state Legislature.

But that wouldn’t be true.

First, there will be a court challenge — or more likely challenges — brought by state workers, teachers and their retirees, along with the unions that represent them.

And before those cases can even work their way through the system, state lawmakers will have to decide in early 2014 how they are going to handle Chicago’s pension problems — beginning with those of city teachers.

Other local officials, including Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle are clamoring for pension relief as well, which will combine with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s priorities to keep the issue on the front burner.

If the courts strike down the pension reform plan approved Tuesday on narrow votes by both chambers, or even if they rule out parts of it, we could be back here within a year or two to start over.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

What transpired Tuesday in the Illinois General Assembly might be a first step in “fixing” the state’s public pension crisis, but much more work and sacrifice will eventually be required to arrive at a real solution.

Question is, is the will even there among Illinoisans and their elected state officials to do this?

I kind of doubt it.

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

Sources:

Garcia, Monique and Long, Ray. “Unions vow legal fight as lawmakers OK pension overhaul.” Chicago Tribune. 4 Dec. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-illinois-pension-vote-20131203,0,5070497.story). 4 Dec. 2013.

Brown, Mike. “Brown: State’s financial problems far from over.” Chicago Sun-Times. 3 Dec. 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/24156150-761/brown-states-financial-problems-far-from-over.html). 4 Dec. 2013.

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Illinois Public Sector ‘Double-Dipping’ Targeted

“Double-dipping.” When public sector public employees draw a public paycheck while at the same time drawing a public pension.

Back when I as a civil servant, not only did I see this taking place, but suspected the arrangement would come under fire one of these days.

As Main Street’s finances eroded significantly after the economic crisis reared its ugly head five years ago, more grumbling was heard over the practice. I blogged back on April 4, 2011:

An employment arrangement I witnessed during my days as a civil servant is coming under increased fire these days. Bloomberg’s David Mildenberg wrote on March 29:

With U.S. unemployment averaging 8.9 percent, so-called double-dipping by tens of thousands of government workers nationwide is drawing increasing scrutiny.

Lawmakers from coast to coast are taking steps to curb the practice as states face combined deficits projected at $112 billion and unfunded pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion.

Arkansas banned double-dipping by state workers last month, while bills to curb it are pending before lawmakers in Olympia, Washington, and Trenton, New Jersey.

And then there’s Illinois, where double-dipping is still permitted in a state saddled with a nearly $100 billion unfunded public pension liability.

Perhaps for not much longer though.

Enter Illinois State Representative Jack D. Franks (D-Woodstock). Representative Franks has introduced Illinois House Bill 3760, the “Retirement Means Retirement Act,” on November 14. Natasha Korecki reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website today:

[Representative Franks] says the legislation would address anyone — from state lawmakers to school superintendents to those in law enforcement who retire from one public job because they’ve maxed out on their pension, then take another public job as they begin to draw pension benefits.

Franks pointed to school superintendents and police chiefs who retire on a Friday only to return the following Monday with a new title, new salary — and drawing a pension— all while staying in the same office.

“I see a lot of people who retire and just end up in another government job shortly thereafter,” Franks told the Sun-Times. “That’s not what this system was designed for, but it’s a major loophole that they’re able to exploit… We’re going after the abusers — and we know who we’re talking about. Some of these guys make more than the president in retirement.”

Supporters of “double-dipping” argue that someone has to be hired to fill the job opening, so it might as well be the best qualified candidate applying for the position- which in many cases is the new retiree.

Reading over the proposed legislation, “double-dipping” looks to be prohibited only going forward. Illinois public sector retirees who are already participating in such an arrangement appear to be safe.

For now, at least.

You can find out more about Illinois House Bill 3670 on the Illinois General Assembly website here.

Source:

Korecki, Natasha. “Public pension and salary ‘double-dippers’ targeted in new bill.” Chicago Sun-Times. 19 Nov. 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/23845706-761/public-pension-and-salary-double-dippers-targeted-in-new-bill.html). 19 Nov. 2013.

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

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