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*** UPDATED x1 - Cullerton responds to Fahner *** Report: Unfunded liabilities rise by $11 billion

Thursday, Nov 15, 2012

*** UPDATE *** Senate President John Cullerton’s response to the Civic Committee’s over the top rant from yesterday…

Democratic leaders were poised to pass Civic Committee approved pension fixes in May. In fact the Senate passed significant reforms to the State Employees’ Retirement System and their own pensions. And while the Civic Committee endorsed reforms that included asking local school districts and universities to pay their fair share of pension costs, Republican leaders still haven’t offered their support. The Civic Committee’s post election condemnation on political courage would be more appropriate if it were directed to those leaders.

Bipartisan pension reform is still my top priority. I invite the Civic Committee to work with me to encourage rather than discourage reform.

Cullerton’s chief legal counsel also sent a letter to Ty Fahner saying the Civic Committee’s statements yesterday “generated more heat than light.” Read it here.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* From the Bond Buyer

The health of Illinois’ pension system continued its downward spiral in the last fiscal year when unfunded liabilities rose by more than $11 billion and the funded ratio deteriorated to 40.4% from 43.4%, according to a review conducted by the Civic Federation of Chicago.

The state’s unfunded liabilities rose to $94.6 billion in fiscal 2012 which ended June 30, 2012 from $82.9 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the federation which tracks local government and state tax and spending policies. […]

The figures are based on a smoothing of assets over a five-year period. The state shifted to the method in fiscal 2009 to ease the impact of extreme market fluctuations on investment gains and losses in any given year. […]

Applying a market-based review, the state’s unfunded obligations rose to $96.8 billion in fiscal 2012 from $83.1 billion a year earlier while the funded ratio declined to 39% from 43.3%.

Quinn’s budget spokesman Abdon Pallasch said the latest pension figures “further illustrates the need for reforms called for by the governor.”

Please, don’t confuse the Civic Federation with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, which went wildly over the top yesterday in its projections of imminent demise without revealing its actual data. Despite that refusal, its angry howls of doom were taken quite seriously by the AP

Illinois’ public-employee pensions system is so far in debt that it is “unfixable,” an influential business group said Wednesday.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago told its members in a memo that even current retirees’ benefits must be cut and other drastic action taken to prevent pension-program bankruptcy, the memo said.

“The pension crisis has grown so severe that it is now unfixable,” former state attorney general Tyrone Fahner, the committee’s president, wrote. “We do not make that statement lightly. It is an honest statement that no one — not our legislators, nor our governor, nor labor leaders — is willing to say publicly.”

The memo said workers putting money into the retirement accounts will never see the payback they were promised.

“It’s not melodrama, it’s fraud,” Fahner said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They’re paying under false pretenses.”

I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m just saying I’d like to see their homework first.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


46 Comments
  1. - The Captain - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 12:19 pm:

    I generally find the Civic Federation less credible and more over the top than the Civic Committee of the Commercial club so your warning has me even more concerned than normal.


  2. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 12:28 pm:

    Move on, nothing to look at here. We just had an election. Voters want the status quo in Illinois. If they wanted some sort of reform the amendment concerning pension reform would have done better, but it didn’t. That’s democracy in action. Just a reminder if you become a long term creditor of the state of Illinois don’t cry if you don’t get your money back.


  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    ===Just a reminder if you become a long term creditor of the state of Illinois don’t cry if you don’t get your money back. ===

    Illinois has the toughest laws in the country about paying bonds off first. Stop making up stuff.


  4. - Waffle Fries - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 12:35 pm:

    Agree with Rich on this, we always pay debt service as a priority, which is why Illinois is pretty successful going to the bond market.


  5. - Reality Check - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 12:48 pm:

    Speaking of showing their work, where is the Civic Fed report which Bond Buyer cites?


  6. - PublicServant - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 1:09 pm:

    Rich, I think you’re right on. It’s just spin, until the supporting actuarial figures that the statement is supposedly based on are supplied.


  7. - archimedes - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 1:13 pm:

    The unfunded liability was expected to get larger - that is the whole issue with the “Ramp” schedule from 1995. To freeze the unfunded liability the State would have had to put another $2 billion into the pension funds last year…


  8. - archimedes - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 1:42 pm:

    Civic Federation Report:

    http://www.civicfed.org/iifs/blog/state-pension-funding-dips-39-percent


  9. - Jechislo - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    ===The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago told its members in a memo that even current retirees’ benefits must be cut===

    Anyone have an idea how they propose that the State do this? Surely Madigan and Quinn aren’t going to go headlong into ignoring the Constitutional protection of retiree benefits. And, the ambigious Constitutional Amendment failed as the voters turned it down.

    That would be legal ’suicide’ as the whole pension mess would be tied up in the courts for a long, long time - meanwhile, an acceptable solution would not be under consideration.


  10. - archimedes - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:02 pm:

    Eric Madiar letter (Cullerton response) is enlightening. Really spells out the contradicitons from Ty and, probably, the level of frustration felt by those trying to solve the problem when these potshots are taken.


  11. - wert - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:13 pm:

    Madiar’s letter admits that the health benefits which are the alleged “consideration” which would make the deal constitutional can be changed on an annual basis for budget concerns. In other words, it’s a one-sided obligation. His admission completely undercuts the argument that the bill could withstand court scrutiny. But really, Ty Fahner is just begging for Illinois to adopt a progressive income tax because he is obviously not paying his fair share.


  12. - geronimo - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:18 pm:

    Such hysterial rants by Ty Fahner are for the purpose of riling hysterical reactions from the taxpayers. Never mind the facts are not only present, but the facts point back at people like him when it comes to solutions to the wild diversion of funds by immoral people. Is he trying to incite Greek-like reactions? He underestimates the intelligence and common sense of the folks who know that there are options (albeit, no one really wants to get down to them) that will not require condemning all public workers to a life on welfare once they retire. These hit-and-run press releases are intended to inflame. We’re smarter than that.


  13. - PublicServant - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:18 pm:

    Thanks wert. That’s exactly the reason that SB 1673 violates contract law. There is no consideration being given for accepting reduced pension benefits.


  14. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:28 pm:

    Rich:

    Illinois has all sorts of laws. But, a judge who’s getting a public pension is going to determine things. Yes, there’s a pecking order in bankruptcy court. But, just ask Indiana teachers about the money they lent to GM and Chrysler. How did that work out for them? So , Rich when you say “Illinois has the toughest laws in the country about paying bonds off first. Stop making up stuff. ” Really?


  15. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:31 pm:

    ===Yes, there’s a pecking order in bankruptcy court. ===

    There is no bankruptcy court for the state of Illinois.

    Again, stop making up stuff.


  16. - Steve Bartin - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:37 pm:

    Rich:

    I’m well aware that state governments can’t file for Chapter 9. But, that doesn’t mean that a judge in the future might not hear a case concerning money they borrowed if they fail to make payment. It’s happened before in the United States. The state of Mississippi defaulted on some bonds in the 1800’s.
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,741005,00.html


  17. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 2:58 pm:

    “The state’s unfunded liabilities rose to $94.6 billion in fiscal 2012 which ended June 30, 2012 from $82.9 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the federation which tracks local government and state tax and spending policies. […]

    The figures are based on a smoothing of assets over a five-year period. The state shifted to the method in fiscal 2009 to ease the impact of extreme market fluctuations on investment gains and losses in any given year. […]

    Applying a market-based review, the state’s unfunded obligations rose to $96.8 billion in fiscal 2012 from $83.1 billion a year earlier while the funded ratio declined to 39% from 43.3%.”

    Ok, I’m doing this quick, so it’s really rough, but if the ‘mark-to-market’ numbers indicated by the Civic Federation are indeed valid (and I’m certainly not doubting those folks) and we are are funded at a level of 39%, basically it means that to get whole (back to the recommended 80% funding level recommended for retirement funds, like IMRF), wouldn’t we literally have to have the State of Illinois at least DOUBLE (100% increase) our existing pension funding levels going forward?


  18. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:07 pm:

    Judgment, short answer, no.


  19. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:07 pm:

    From the report:
    “Annual actuarial valuations are used to determine statutorily required State contributions to the pension funds. As discussed here, the systems’ proposed total FY2014 contribution amount of $6.8 billion is $964.7 million more than FY2013 State contributions of $5.9 billion.”

    If the numbers shown above are correct (and again, no reason to doubt the numbers), and these 2013/2014 State of Illinois funding numbers get us to 39%, then ….

    FY2014 retirement funding numbers of $6.8 billion would have to jump to around $ 13.6 billion.

    Interesting….


  20. - mongo - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:08 pm:

    For Steve, really, Missippi in the 1800’s? Tha’s all you got?

    Madiar’s letter is excellent. Time for Fahner to show us his information. Paint or get off the ladder so to speak.


  21. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:08 pm:

    AA, THANK YOU!!!


  22. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:09 pm:

    ===would have to jump===

    You’re forgetting the ramp.


  23. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:23 pm:

    RICH, THANK YOU!


  24. - Obamas Puppy - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:33 pm:

    Homework? They already flunked out of school and now they are boo hooing because they have been outmaneuvered at every turn.


  25. - Hacks - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:34 pm:

    Shortly, we’ll have to re-visit the constitutionality of a State filing for bankruptcy.

    Meredith Whitney may have been early on her call for 100 municipalities to go bankrupt, but they are starting to drop. I am looking for another 5-10 counties next year.

    When will the capital markets say Illinois is not a good risk? I think we are within 5-6 years of this. I intrinsically think Ty Fahner is correct.


  26. - wert - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:34 pm:

    Ty is having a hissy fit because he’s afraid people in Illinois might agree with Obama’s statements that the election was a mandate to tax the wealthy more. And, like Rove and Romney, he needs to lash out at a scapegoat so his wealthy cohorts don’t grumble that they’ve spent all their money on his Civic Committee demonize-public-employees plan and gotten jack in return. It is mystifying why the press refers to his group as a “watchdog” or “thinktank” when it is nothing more than a super PAC.


  27. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:36 pm:

    –Just a reminder if you become a long term creditor of the state of Illinois don’t cry if you don’t get your money back. –

    Steve, in your alternative universe, are there examples that you can cite in which the SOI, a going concern since 1818, missed a bond or pension payment, through recession, Depression, Civil War or foreign war?

    Because you won’t find an example in this universe.


  28. - Soccertease - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:37 pm:

    The state’s pension debt problem is fixable-difficult, but fixable. The Civic Committee of the CC is not fixable.


  29. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 3:40 pm:

    Curiously, after saying the problem is “unfixable,” Ty’s crew laid out a four-point plan to fix it.

    Pick a lane, dudes.


  30. - KurtInSpringfield - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 5:31 pm:

    Curiously, the idea that because the pension funding level is now at 39% it is unsustainable and needs fixing or is unfixable rings hollow . From Eric Madiar, IS WELCHING ON PUBLIC PENSION PROMISES AN OPTION FOR ILLINOIS?:

    “The pension system was no better funded in 1970 as it is today.
    At the time of the Convention, the Pension Laws Commission reported that the General Assembly
    Retirement System (GARS) was 68.5% funded, while the State University Retirement System (SURS)
    was 47% funded.The remaining state-funded retirement systems had the following funding
    percentages: State Employees Retirement System (SERS) 43%; Judicial Retirement System (JRS) 32.3%;and Teachers Retirement System (TRS) 40%.94 The five State pension systems had an aggregate funding ratio of 41.8%. By comparison police and firemen pension funds were respectively only 33.8% and 19.1% funded.”

    The pension systems have honored all their obligations while remaining significantly underfunded for over 30 years. Why, all of a sudden then, is this an immediate crisis and unfixable?

    The pension liability never comes due all at once. For example, most people can’t afford to pay off their mortgages today, but they can make the payments. It doesn’t mean they have an immediate crisis.

    Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is a crisis, a debt crisis, not a pension crisis.

    As I’ve said before one viable, constitutional solution would be to rewrite the terms of the payment plan (the pension ramp). Make the payments a fixed dollar amount rather than ramping up every year. You could reduce the debt payments and increase the term just as you would if you were refinancing a mortgage from say 15 years to 30 years to reduce your monthly payments.

    As Rich has stated on this blog before, why 2045 & 90%? Or Pat Quinn’s plan this spring was to reach 100% by 2042. Why? Why not 75% by 2052, and 80% soon after that and eventually reaching 100%.

    Save taxpayer money on a constitutional fight, redo the pension ramp, and make it easier on the state bugdet. Debt crisis solved! You could even use Fortner’s idea of diverting money from bond payments, once the bonds are paid off, to pay down the pension debt. That would reduce the pressure on the state budget even more.


  31. - KurtInSpringfield - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 5:38 pm:

    By the way, the plan I proposed only works if the state continues to pay its normal pension cost every year along with the debt repayment. It would be similar to always making the minimum payments to keep up and paying extra every month to pay down the actual debt.


  32. - Bill - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 6:15 pm:

    Revenue must be increased and the state debt must be paid. That is the only way to “fix” the pension “crisis”. Even if any of these so called solutions could pass court muster they would still not address the $83 or $95 or $120, or whatever billion number they are using today, debt the state has accrued. The reductionists want to pay less not more to the plans. They will never solve anything that way. Cutting benefits will never solve the problem because benefits are not the problem in the first place.


  33. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 6:25 pm:

    –By the way, the plan I proposed only works if the state continues to pay its normal pension cost every year along with the debt repayment. It would be similar to always making the minimum payments to keep up and paying extra every month to pay down the actual debt.–

    Reasonable people dealing in good faith understand that.

    Ty and the Tribbies see an opportunity to pull a fast one, stealing the retirement funds of working stiffs and busting the public unions in the process.

    If they weren’t such vacuous clods (John Kass, our most brilliant thinker and writer!), they might have had a chance.

    I think the CTU disabused them of that notion. Seeing the very young teachers out in the streets woke up a lot of folks, I think, to the fact that public employees are not some parasite on the body politic, but your daughters, sons and neighbors trying to make an honest buck in an honorable way.

    But Bruce Rauner, you might disagree and have a point. Tell you what, give me a few million and I can spin it the other way, lol. You’ll make a great governor.


  34. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 6:39 pm:

    Nice to read some serious, informed comment after the earlier Wingnut burst.
    I crunched some numbers a couple years back which showed that even if the State paid zip toward normal cost, the annual tab was still several billion per year and grew rapidly. The miracle of compound interest.
    Bill and Kurt are absolutely right. This is about debts and revenues, not benefit levels.
    As an aside, word, you are likely on to something with Rauner ‘14. A consultant’s dream, and the check won’t bounce.


  35. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 7:01 pm:

    –As an aside, word, you are likely on to something with Rauner ‘14. A consultant’s dream, and the check won’t bounce.–

    Love that rich egomaniac money.


  36. - geronimo - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 7:08 pm:

    Wordslinger–Ty and the Tribbies see an opportunity to pull a fast one, stealing the retirement funds of working stiffs and busting the public unions in the process.

    That is the beginning, middle and end of everything anyone needs to know about the pension issue. Add some hysterical handwringing to the mix from both of them and that’s about it.


  37. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 7:30 pm:

    I found the CC’s letter somewhat indecipherable. For example, are they suggesting that Moody’s 5.5% discount rate suggestion also become the assumed rate of return for the systems? If so, can anyone point out to me 1 or 2 of the say 250 largest public pension systems currently using a 5.5% discount rate, much less a 5.5% rate of return assumption. Seriously, I would be quite interested. My own (granted limited) research has found none, and finds the national average to be around 7.75%, somewhat lower than the national average assumption for non public funds. Does that mean that all public pension funds are now unfixable?

    What state contribution are they foreseeing between now and 2029, or 2040? What employee contributions are they assuming? My inclination is that if they had hard numbers, based on reasonable assumptions, we would already be having those numbers forced at us, since they would be very powerful. When you are asked a reasonable question in these circumstances and you refuse to answer it, one may reasonably conclude that the answer would be to your disadvantage. Let’s see some numbers.


  38. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 7:40 pm:

    And Madiar is brutal, in his civil, understated way, in his dissection of Ty’s letter. I wonder if Ty got it.


  39. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 8:02 pm:

    –And Madiar is brutal, in his civil, understated way, in his dissection of Ty’s letter. I wonder if Ty got it.–

    Indeed he was, I’m sure he did, and I hope he and his reflect.

    Psst, Ty, the folks aren’t buying that neighbor-as-parasite stuff, anymore.

    Hope springs eternal, and I personally hope that the Yankees’ resounding victory last week will convince those that traffic in willful ignorance and irrational fear to listen to the better angels of their nature and stop demonizing their neighbors for the short con.

    If not, they’d better pack a lunch, because it will be an all-day job.


  40. - RNUG - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 8:06 pm:

    Steve, I agree.

    As he has demonstrated previously, Madiar is one of the few people, and possibly the only person, in the State who really understands the entire pension issue and the total implications of any proposed changes.


  41. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 8:29 pm:

    –When will the capital markets say Illinois is not a good risk? I think we are within 5-6 years of this. I intrinsically think Ty Fahner is correct–

    How do you, “intrinsically,” arrive at that conclusion?

    The capital markets can’t get enough of public paper (or private junk paper, for that matter), because they pay when nothing else does.

    And the public paper is incredibly safe, as any fool can see.

    Were you all born yesterday, watching Meredith Whitney (betting the other way) on “60 Minutes?”

    I hope you didn’t put any money down on Dick Morris and George Wills’ election predictions (”Minnesota, for Romney, because the evangelicals will come out for the gay marriage ban).”

    There’s a history you can track here. “Gut” feelings mean oogots.


  42. - Norseman - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 10:35 pm:

    RNUG, I was very impressed by his memo, however, I disagree with his contention that SB 1673 is a constitutionally acceptable consideration for modifying the pension benefits.


  43. - Bemac - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 10:37 pm:

    The figure in the first paragraph of the second page of Madiar’s letter should be $71.8 billion, not $17.8. Once a copy editor, always a copy editor.


  44. - Joe Melugins - Thursday, Nov 15, 12 @ 10:49 pm:

    The courts may have to decide if any bill reducing COLAs in constitutional or not. Arizona has an almost identical pension protection clause in its constitution - and their courts first shot down the AZ legislatures attempt to reduce pensions.
    http://www.governing.com/news/state/sl-courts-block-efforts-at-public-pension-change.html

    Then it also shot down the AZ legislatures attempt to reduce COLAs.

    “Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ruled that the state Legislature violated the state Constitution and effectively breached a contract when it passed a bill overhauling the state’s pension system.

    At issue was whether judges and elected officials were entitled to continued annual cost-of-living increases. A bill passed last year stopped the increases, which went as high as 4 percent per year, to protect the finances of the state pension fund.

    Several retired judges and elected officials brought suit against the state’s Elected Officials’ Retirement Plan, pointing out that the state Constitution explicitly states that “public retirement benefits shall not be diminished or impaired.” Retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields was named as lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

    Superior Court Judge John Buttrick found in Fields’ favor late last week”

    from: http://www.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/2012/05/29/20120529maricopa-judge-pension-raises.html?nclick_check=1#ixzz1wMtPh84v


  45. - Todd - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 7:56 am:

    I found the CC’s letter somewhat indecipherable. For example, are they suggesting that Moody’s 5.5% discount rate suggestion also become the assumed rate of return for the systems? If so, can anyone point out to me 1 or 2 of the say 250 largest public pension systems currently using a 5.5% discount rate, much less a 5.5% rate of return assumption. Seriously, I would be quite interested. My own (granted limited) research has found none, and finds the national average to be around 7.75%, somewhat lower than the national average assumption for non public funds. Does that mean that all public pension funds are now unfixable?

    What state contribution are they foreseeing between now and 2029, or 2040? What employee contributions are they assuming? My inclination is that if they had hard numbers, based on reasonable assumptions, we would already be having those numbers forced at us, since they would be very powerful. When you are asked a reasonable question in these circumstances and you refuse to answer it, one may reasonably conclude that the answer would be to your disadvantage. Let’s see some numbers.

    Steve –

    My pension is a private one. And we use to use a 7.5% rate of return despite a 30 year historical average of over 10%. But with the way the stock market is acting, we have dropped ours to 5.5 % anticipated ROI. due to the timing of the end of our fiscal year for our pension, we got a 4.5% ROI last year. But we were 3 ppints below what we needed and so the differance has to come out of the reserves.

    there are also new mortalitiy tables that are changing our calculations for reserves. Putting even more pressure on things. I think that if the public pension plans assumed a REAL rate of return somewher in the 5 - 5.5% area and used the mortality tables that ERISA plans or private plans need to. you could tack on another 30% tot he unfunded liablity.

    I just don’t see the reality in their projections based upon what my $3 Billion plan has had to do to stay on the positive side of things. and for the record, we are funded at 80%.

    But this involved, reducing our multiplier from 3.6 to 1 over several years, 4 reductions if memory serves me right. contrubutions which we don;t get credit for that go into building up the reserves.

    changing our retiree medical plans

    changing our assumed ROI

    revising mortality tables (to the detriment) of the fund.

    My suggestion is to look to the private sector. That is where the comparision needs to take place


  46. - RNUG - Friday, Nov 16, 12 @ 8:11 am:

    Norseman,

    I didn’t say he was always 100% right, just that he understands it better than anyone else.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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        * Rauner asks mayors to support 'turnaround agenda'..
        * LGBT Equality Institute ponders next LGBTQ battles..
        * Saluki Athletics, Policy Institute could hit SI.....
        * Malloy orders $13.7 million more in mid-year bu.....
        * Reeder: Are right-to-work zones the next Overto.....
        * Rauner, Kirk Voice Objections To Indiana’s Reli.....
        * Gay marriage, concealed carry and “right to work”?..
        * Finally, some coverage..
        * Illinois Rep Sente Holds Healthcare Citizen Adv.....
        * Illinois sees lack of bids in online auction of.....


        * Inmate overpowers guard, escapes from eastern Illinois jail
        * Illinois governor, GOP US senator criticize Indiana law
        * Naked woman found dead in brush near Brooklyn strip clubs
        * US gives threatened status to northern long-eared bat
        * AG seeks to suspend license of Gary funeral home director
        * Lawyers: U of Illinois broke contract with professor
        * Escaped inmate's SUV discovered in Kankakee
        * Judge to rule on free-speech question in Chicago mayor race
        * Escaped Illinois inmate beat guard into unconsciousness
        * Illinois corn acreage projected to decline in 2015

        * Struggle for Durbin's Senate leadership position may loom
        * Illinois sees lack of bids in online auction of state planes
        * Rauner schedules special election to replace Schock
        * Duckworth says Clinton must testify on Benghazi, criticizes Kirk for Iran letter
        * Q&A: What happens now that Aaron Schock is out of office?
        * State's school districts adapt to new cyberbullying law
        * Duckworth: Clinton must testify before Benghazi committee
        * Ex-deputy treasurer to fun for Duckworth's seat
        * Ex-deputy treasurer to run for Duckworth's seat
        * LIHEAP utility assistance fund for Sangamon County is empty

        * CFTC accuses Kraft, Mondelez of wheat market abuses
        * Feta fight key ingredient in ex-wife's bid to control Chobani
        * McDonald's: Workers to get pay hikes at company-owned stores
        * Suburban steel company border-jumps to Indiana
        * Harrington College of Design to close


          * Unions, progressives try to shape City Council
          * Man shot in Homan Square neighborhood
          * Girl, 15, missing from West Garfield Park neighborhood
          * Girl thought to be with escaped murderer found safe
          * Man who felt slighted stabbed sleeping Naperville couple, officials say
          * Lawyers: University of Illinois broke professor's contract
          * McDonald's raising its minimum wage
          * Preckwinkle avoids symbolic property tax vote pushed by Rauner ally
          * Ex-hospital cashier stole money collected from patients, authorities say
          * AG seeks to suspend license of Gary funeral home director after babies' bodies found


          * Rauner signs into law compromise plan to fix budget hole
          * Indiana law: Sorting fact from fiction from politics
          * More people moved away from Illinois last year than any other state
          * Indiana pastor doesn’t want changes to 'religious freedom' law
          * Flamin' Hot Cheetos top some Chicago Public School vending machines
          * What to watch for in the final mayoral debate
          * Indiana Gov. Pence signs religious objections bill
          * How organizations brace for Illinois budget cuts
          * Unions and Garcia push for $15-an-hour minimum wage
          * The Chicago rabbit: The unofficial face of wildlife is right under your nose


          * Illinois gets just 1 bid in online sale of state planes
          * Struggle for Durbin's Senate leadership position may loom
          * Our Opinion: Proctor, Higgins for Springfield's wards 5 and 7
          * Michael Gerson: The virtues of the smoke-filled room
          * Rauner schedules special election to replace Schock
          * Duckworth says Clinton must testify on Benghazi, criticizes Kirk for Iran letter
          * Q&A: What happens now that Aaron Schock is out of office?
          * State's school districts adapt to new cyberbullying law
          * Ex-deputy treasurer to fun for Duckworth's seat
          * Our Opinion: Redpath, Senor, McFarland for Springfield's wards 1, 2 and 4


          * UI student missing from Minnesota home
          * Creal Springs man sentenced six years for meth possession
          * UPDATED: Shots reported near Booker T. Washington
          * Nathaniel Childers
          * Genealogy expert to present to computer society
          * Scott County Republicans elect officers
          * PV honors physician with Wall of Honor recognition
          * Ashford University student group plans science fair
          * St. Ambrose University lecture focuses on women in Iran
          * Register for reading challenge


          * Poets, authors help Grayslake Central celebrate writing
          * New brewpub planned for former Flatlander's space in Lincolnshire
          * 4 girls combine to sell moer than $40,000 worth of Girl Scout cookies
          * West Chicago man gets 10 years for abusing girl in his care
          * No charges in Rosemont cop shooting of brother-in-law

          * Duckworth announces 2016 Senate bid in video
          * Longhi: Granite City layoffs not permanent
          * Bustos offers support for Duckworth; says ...
          * Bost launches Congressional Listening Tour
          * 2016 Senate Race Is On
          * Blog: Bost teaming up with Virginia congre...
          * US Rep. Randy Hultgren joins bipartisan gr...
          * As Illinois' Common Core Testing Begins, H...
          * Letter: Smarter than fifth-grader? - North...
          * The 17 Republicans who voted against the G...

          * Ship runs aground in Delaware River; no in......
          * Lacking faith in government, Mexican paren......
          * Cosart: 'I never have, never will bet on b......
          * Former 'Alpha House' roommates Schumer, Du......
          * Struggle for Durbin's Senate leadership po......

          * Rauner, Kirk Voice Objections To Indiana’s......
          * Iran Nuclear Negotiations Continue Past De......
          * Limited Progress On Iran Talks Unlikely To......
          * Kirk blasts Indiana...
          * Freedom from violence against women...

          * Just In! Video Of Saturday's Aldermanic Debate
          * Aurora Ald. Johnson Refuses To Resign After Arrest Record Gets Revealed
          * McDonald's To Raise Wages, Provide Paid Time Off
          * Fast Food Workers Palm Sunday 3
          * Fast Food Workers Palm Sunday 2
          * "Love Is A Four Letter Word" On Racine
          * Jesus Garcia At Chicago Housing Initiative Housing Forum
          * Report: Chicago Aldermanic Campaigns See Few Donations From Small Donors
          * More Government Consolidation and Efficiency Efforts in Illinois
          * Final Two 46th Ward Candidate Debates Televised Tonight and Friday


          * Don’t Forget Pets When Planning for Disasters - IEMA, local emergency management agencies to focus on pet preparedness throughout April
          * IDHS Prescription Monitoring program helps control prescription drugs abuse in Illinois - Program has more than 26,000 registered users
          * Gov. Rauner File Writs of Special Election
          * Governor Announces Appointments to Illinois Enterprise Zone
          * Illinois Mayors to Celebrate National Service - April 7, 2015 Designated as “Mayors Day of Recognition”




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