Illinois has the highest pension burden among all 50 states, said Fitch Ratings’ 2017 state pension report released Tuesday.
According to the report, Illinois’ unfunded pension liabilities amounted to 22.8% of residents’ personal income at the end of fiscal year 2016, compared to a median 3.1% for all states and 1% for Florida, the least burdened state.
The median 3.1% for all states is higher than the approximately 2.9% reported in fiscal year 2015, which Fitch attributed in the report to weak asset performance, reduced discount rates, inadequate employer pension contributions, and “ongoing unfavorable demographic and actuarial trends.”
Douglas Offerman, senior director at Fitch Ratings, noted that a number of states with the highest pension burdens — Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey and Massachusetts — help cover the cost of local teachers’ pensions. Teachers make up one of the largest populations of public-sectors workers, Mr. Offerman said.
Under Fitch’s calculations, Illinois’ net pension liabilities totaled $151.5 billion at the end of fiscal year 2016; New Jersey, $91.8 billion; Massachusetts, $48.9 billion; and Kentucky, $32.8 billion. For this year’s report, Fitch used a 6% discount rate to calculate net pension liabilities, down from 7% last year.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article, Illinois Drives People Away, that said, “Fitch Ratings reported this week that Illinois’s unfunded pension liabilities equaled 22.8% of residents’ personal income last year, compared to a median of 3.1% across all states and 1% in Florida.” State Representative Jeanne Ives, a Republican Candidate for Governor, issued the following statement:
“In 2014, Governor Rauner ran on a reform agenda that would grow Illinois’ economy. The report in Wall Street Journal, one of the most reputable and well-respected newspapers in the nation, dramatically highlights Benedict Rauner’s betrayals on his fiscal promises.
“During the 2014 C-Span Gubernatorial Debate against Pat Quinn, Governor Rauner, in his closing statement said, ‘We need to grow our economy, which is the single most important thing we can do. And we are failing miserably under Pat Quinn to grow our economy and create jobs… I’ll drive that. I’ve been a business builder my whole career.’
“But, the WSJ reported, ‘The Prairie State lost a record $4.75 billion in adjusted gross income to other states in the 2015 tax year, according to recently IRS data released. That’s up from $3.4 billion in the prior year. Many of the migrants were retirees who often flock to balmier climes. But millennials accounted for more than a third of the net outflow in tax returns.’
‘While Florida with zero income tax was the top destination for Illinois expatriates, the Illinois Policy Institute notes that Illinois lost income and people on net to all of its neighbors—Wisconsin (6,000 people based on claimed exemptions), Indiana (8,200), Iowa (1,900), Missouri (2,000) and Kentucky (1,100).’
“In 2014, Governor Rauner promised roll back the income tax rate to 3 percent over four years.
“Yet, the WSJ reports, ‘Illinois’ corporate tax rate is 9.5 percent, and pass-through business owners pay 6.45 percent.’ Additionally, Illinois’ personal income tax rate is at 4.95 percent, 32 percent higher than when Rauner took office.
“In a 2014 campaign ad, Bruce Rauner blasted Pat Quinn for Illinois’ high property tax rates, which he claimed were the second highest in the nation. The ad said: ‘The second highest property taxes in America, and Pat Quinn wants to make his 67 percent tax increase permanent. Pat Quinn: He just doesn’t get it.’
“The ad debuted about a month after Rauner proposed a freeze on local property taxes with no increase allowed without voter approval.
“Today, according to the Wall Street Journal, ‘Property taxes in Cook County and Chicago’s “collar” counties are the highest in the country outside of California and the Northeast. The average homeowner who moves from Lake County, Illinois, across the border to Kenosha County, Wisconsin would receive an annual $3,200 annual property tax cut.’
“In 2014, Governor Rauner repeatedly said he would replace traditional pensions for public workers with 401(k)-style retirement plans common in the private sector. This was a plan advocated by the Illinois Policy Institute that would have cut the state’s unfunded pension liability in half in 2014 and eliminated the state’s unfunded liability by 2045.
“According to the WSJ report, ‘Taxes may increase as Democrats scrounge for cash to pay for pensions. Fitch Ratings reported this week that Illinois’s unfunded pension liabilities equaled 22.8% of residents’ personal income last year, compared to a median of 3.1% across all states and 1% in Florida.’
“In their 2014 endorsement of Governor Rauner, the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board said, ‘From the get-go, Rauner has campaigned on the urgent need to shatter the self-serving political power structure in state government and promote a dramatically different agenda to get Illinois growing again. He knows that the answer isn’t more tax increases. Unlike the ruling class in Springfield, he doesn’t see employers as enemies useful only to be milked. He wants government to be of a size taxpayers can afford… We believe a Gov. Rauner would explore changes made by governors of other states with balanced budgets, solid retirement systems and lower unemployment rates. He’s obviously competitive. He would strive to do what Quinn cannot: Make Illinois competitive again.’
“Yesterday, the WSJ reported, ‘Illinois’s economy has been stagnant, growing a meager 0.9% on an inflation-adjusted annual basis since 2012—the slowest in the Great Lakes and half as fast as the U.S. overall. This year nearly 100,000 individuals have left the Illinois labor force. The University of Illinois Flash Economic Index, which measures corporate earnings and investment as well as personal income, hit a five-year low in October. (See nearby for the recent labor force trend in Illinois and Wisconsin.)’