Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Moody’s: “Revenue pressure from pandemic to worsen Illinois’ massive and growing pension liability without fiscal adjustments”
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Moody’s: “Revenue pressure from pandemic to worsen Illinois’ massive and growing pension liability without fiscal adjustments”

Thursday, Oct 1, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Moody’s…


    * Even if the US economy rebounds soon, Illinois’ liability-to-GDP ratio is the highest among states and is likely to rise further
    * The state’s credit position could stabilize if structural measures, such as austerity and revenue enhancements, are implemented

The State of Illinois’ (Baa3 negative) ability to weather the coronavirus pandemic without hurting its credit quality will require keeping growth of its long-term liabilities within its capacity to pay, Moody’s Investors Service says in a report published today. The pandemic has eroded the state’s revenue, and its already massive long-term obligations – primarily pensions – are rising. Nevertheless, Illinois’ credit position would stabilize if structural measures were implemented, while policies that achieve near-term balance by stoking growth in long-term liabilities would be a clear credit negative.

“Lower interest rates and weaker-than-expected investment returns will accelerate growth in Illinois’ extremely high pension liabilities while the state’s economic base is shrinking due to coronavirus-related business disruptions,” said Moody’s analyst Ted Hampton. “We therefore expect Illinois to increasingly seek new revenue sources and to rein in spending, but any cuts to its pension contributions would only worsen its long-term fiscal position by adding to its unfunded liabilities.”

Even if the US economy improves later in fiscal 2021, measures of Illinois’ debt burden relative to its capacity to pay will likely head higher, Hampton says. Total liabilities (including retirement benefits and debt) are on track to rise to 45% of GDP in the year ending June 30, 2021, from 35% in fiscal 2019. This estimate reflects an approximately 14% increase in bonds, driven by borrowings from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility program and a 34% increase in unfunded pension liabilities.

To address near-term tax revenue loss from the pandemic, Illinois may choose to defer its financial obligations. Relying heavily on strategies like deficit borrowing or “re-amortizing” its pension contribution schedule would however be credit negative for the state, since such tactics only add to a long-term cycle of borrowing, or deferring payment, to address the consequences of those past actions.

“Contributing insufficient amounts annually to meet long-term benefit obligations is a short-term fiscal management tactic Illinois has used for years, and helps explain both the magnitude of the state’s pension problem and its credit standing,” Hampton notes. “Underfunding pensions again could lead to further credit deterioration, depending on the degree of underfunding, the state’s other financial strategies and the performance of its pension investments.”

Illinois is just one tiny tick above junk bond status. So, if that graduated income tax fails to pass in November, the governor will have a total mess on his hands.


  1. - Union thug - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 4:38 pm:

    “the governor will have a total mess on his hands”

    Correction the mess the governor inherited will be harder to get out of.

  2. - 1st Ward - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 4:38 pm:

    the cause of the “mess” is not a failure of the graduated income tax measure. There are plenty of options as stated above and by the Lt. Gov recently. Political will is different.

  3. - Perrid - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 4:41 pm:

    Ist Ward, right now the plan is the graduated income tax. That’s the tool our leaders have chosen to help fix the mess. If they are denied that tool, then every plan made to date goes out the window. Then there’s something like $3 billion less in revenue, which is what, 8% of the budget? How is that NOT a mess?

  4. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 4:43 pm:

    Dear JB, I offer my services to help you find some cost savings. Admittedly they won’t be popular. But I think if we spread this throughout the state proportionately, we can get the needed votes.

  5. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 5:21 pm:

    BDD. Cuts would require major changes in how the work is done or deep cuts in services.

    I think DNR needs more Game Wardens. Maybe using drones could make them more efficient. But I sometimes hear rifle fire while in my stand. Makes me nervous.

    Would group homes be cheaper than foster homes for DCFS? Maybe, but if mismanaged they become hell holes We couldn’t keep veterans safe in state facilities. Want to risk it?

  6. - yinn - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 5:44 pm:

    I watched a panel discussion on post-COVID reopening of the economy yesterday. One of the participants said states learned a lesson during the Great Recession and have healthy rainy day funds and I thought, “Really?”

  7. - Jibba - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:07 pm:

    Austerity is possible, but few would like the reality of service cuts, increasing user fees/tuition, and deteriorating infrastructure.

    The rich don’t mind these things, but services for regular people will be worse. Keeping a good quality of life is how Illinois will succeed, not by becoming West Indiana.

  8. - Hickory - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:07 pm:

    The first thing that should be done after the amendment passes or fails is to start taxing retirement income above the poverty level. The AARP is only looking out for their dues payers.

  9. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:16 pm:

    @Hickory taxing retirement income would require political courage, lack of political courage is a part of the reason we’re where we are at. Retirees vote by larger percentage than any other age group and our politicians are aware of that fact.
    It will take a lot more than taxing retirees income to get us out of the mess we’re in, that alone won’t raise nearly the amount of money needed to balance the books. If the fair tax fails they will just raise the income tax on everyone.

  10. - A - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:25 pm:

    Ten years ago when the papers were full of screaming headlines about the pension crisis, there were plenty of options available to change the trajectory of the skyrocketing debt. Today, after no action has been taken at all, we are hearing once again about the horrendous debt, due to pension holidays and skipped payments.

    I’m still wondering where the money that was not paid into the pension funds……went? How did it disappear?

    In any case, doing nothing hasn’t made anything better, has it?

  11. - Really - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:31 pm:

    “If the graduated tax fails to lass in November the Governor will have a total mess on his hands.”

    Hope so. Can’t wait.

  12. - Really. - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:32 pm:

    Typo. “Fails to pass”.

  13. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:34 pm:

    === Illinois is just one tiny tick above junk bond status. So, if that graduated income tax fails to pass in November, the governor will have a total mess on his hands.===

    The focus on the CA, with early voting going on as I type this, is seemingly behind to the education aspect, with so much misinformation flooding paid media, the serious and honest question is if the saturation of the CA positives are baked in to those currently voting… today?

    I have no idea, i have no way of knowing, but to Rich’s point, and to add a bit, the idea that this CA fails, the work necessary to tackle the mess left without the Fair Tax, it will be a huge loss well beyond the ballot box loss, the loss is even bigger than an Administration loss… the politics and governing to alleviate the loss will lead to fiscally and politically unprecedented places… and could fracture not only the geographic angst even more, the polarizing of the two parties will force Dems into more fractured camps too.

    Welcome to October.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:36 pm:

    === Typo. “Fails to pass”.===

    Yeah. That happens to those salivating destruction and pain, and cheering against a state.

    I’m surprised you didn’t hyperventilate first.

  15. - Jibba - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 6:58 pm:

    ==Today, after no action has been taken at all===

    Narrator: Tier 2 reforms were passed.

    ===I’m still wondering where the money……went?===

    Your representatives and mine spent it on other things so they did not have to raise income tax.. Republicans and Democrats alike. We all owe that debt.

  16. - Really - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 7:10 pm:

    Easy to vote no when you don’t trust the people that will spend this extra money or what they will spend it on. Since this won’t be close to enough money to solve the state’s problems don’t be surprised when that 250K limit drops to 150K, then to 100K, and then lower.

  17. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 7:12 pm:

    === don’t be surprised when ===

    The legislature can raise taxes *now* anytime they have 60/71, 30/36.

    Keep up, please.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 7:14 pm:

    === you don’t trust the people that will spend this extra money or what they will spend it on===

    Elections make those who do the budgets and vote on them accountable.

    Like this CA.

    Vote no. Fine. When your taxes go up and the taxes of 100% of folks go up, trust or not, you’re going to pay.

  19. - PublicServant - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 8:06 pm:

    Pretty simple really.

    If the CA passes those dollars of your net income over 250K will be taxed more. Oh, you don’t make over $250K a year…no problem. You pay less.

    If the CA doesn’t pass, net income over 0 dollars will be taxed at a higher rate. Either 97 out of 100 Illinoisans will pay less income taxes if the CA passes, or 100% if Illinoisans will pay more.

    Will you continue to let the 3% off the hook for paying a little more on their excess money over the first $250K that they make annually, or do you want to pay more to let them save a couple of bucks in order to buy a bigger yacht?

    Vote Yes on the Fair Tax Amendment, and let Illinois tax income at a variable rate just like the federal government and dozens of other states already do.

  20. - HighSox - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 8:48 pm:

    ===Vote no. Fine. When your taxes go up and the taxes of 100% of folks go up, trust or not, you’re going to pay.===

    I’m voting no because I don’t like being threated that if I vote “no” I’ll be paying an additional 20%.

    If IL had not done pension ‘holidays’ and instead spent the state portion of the pension contribution on pork projects for decades, we would have stable SERS, TRS and SURS pension systems.

    If the fair tax passes, IL billion/millionaires (what is left of them) will relocate their official residences to FL/TX causing the fair tax to have to “reach down” to middle income taxpayers to solve IL pension problem.

  21. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 8:54 pm:

    === I don’t like being threated===

    It’s more… “don’t be surprised, we’re givin’ ya the heads up”

    === If===

    We’re past that. Join the adults in the now.

    === will relocate===

    The “save the millionaire/billionaire” phony is embarrassing, child-like even. “Don’t get them mad, we should make them happy”

    Geez, Louise, think on this…

    You… don’t like to be threatened… but you’re scared… and kowtow to millionaires? LOL, ok.

  22. - Really - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 9:19 pm:

    Yes, they can raise them at any time. Why haven’t they? Where is the back up bill to raise them once this does not pass? Kind of a hollow threat. Let’s see the bill to raise the flat tax if this fails. Come on Governor. Put pen to paper and back up your threats.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 9:28 pm:

    === Why haven’t they?===

    Political will, 60/71, 30/36, a governor to sign, thats why.

    ===Where is the back up bill to raise them once this does not pass? Kind of a hollow threat.===

    You’d be the first, it seems, if there was a backup bill to say “they’re threatening me, how is this right”

    You’re dishonest to your reality, you cheer pain and messes, so it’s on brand for you.

    === Let’s see the bill to raise the flat tax if this fails. Come on Governor. Put pen to paper and back up your threats.===

    I’ll make note, and if it does fail, I’ll make sure to remind ya.

  24. - weeds - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 9:35 pm:

    It’s irrational to give Springfield more power by voting Yes.

    The No vote is a vote for a constraint-based fiscal framework, a much needed approach in Illinois.

    A Yes vote gives too much revenue authority to a state that is the most poorly managed in the country.

  25. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 9:47 pm:


    You want this…

    === constraint-based fiscal framework, a much needed approach in Illinois.===

    … which has been like *that*… for decades… but also according to you…

    ===… a state that is the most poorly managed in the country.===

    Are you even trying or you forgot this ain’t Facebook?

  26. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 10:30 pm:

    Voting no on the CA means the vast majority will likely get a tax hike and give more money to “despised Springfield politicians.” Thankfully LG Stratton said what will probably come if the CA fails. Better that we know now, while the vast majority has an opportunity to cut its taxes while more revenue is generated via the rich paying more.

  27. - Chichi55 - Friday, Oct 2, 20 @ 7:48 am:

    Pritzkers’ job is on the line. If the CA fails, the options available to him, will surely hinder any chance at reelection.

  28. - Chicagonk - Friday, Oct 2, 20 @ 7:54 am:

    Well it was pretty dumb of the legislature to pass a budget assuming the federal government would bail them out. That’s on Madigan, Harmon, and Pritzker.

  29. - Really - Friday, Oct 2, 20 @ 10:19 am:

    Oswego Willy,

    We will agree to disagree. While I disagree with you I respect your ability to have your opinion that is different than mine. I do not trust the legislators in Springfield to do the right thing with additional funding so I will vote no. The plan to help fix this state financially has to have both spending reductions and revenue enhancements for me to vote to raise anyone’s taxes. Until they to both, my vote will be no.

  30. - Really - Friday, Oct 2, 20 @ 10:19 am:

    Do both.

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