* Darren Bailey’s running mate Stephanie Trussell held a press conference in Chicago yesterday. From WGN TV…
Trussell: JB Pritzker doesn’t care about Garfield Park. JB Pritzker doesn’t care about anyone suffering outside of his billionaire bubble.
Pritzker: That’s ludicrous. Since I came into office, in fact, I’ve been focused on lifting up those who’ve been left out and left behind. Let me be clear, it was Darren Bailey that voted against providing rent assistance or homeowners assistance during the worst parts of the pandemic. Darren Bailey, who voted against all of the assistance for small businesses during the pandemic.
When asked about abortion rights, Trussell said this…
People that are working hard every day to pay the increased gas prices, to pay the increased taxes. 114,000 people fled the great state of Illinois last year. That’s not an issue that most people are concerned about.
A political ad airing on TV and online that is critical of Democrats’ policies is finding different interpretations among Democrats.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week criticized a political ad from People Who Play By The Rules PAC airing concerns about the Democrats’ policies on crime and punishment.
Lightfoot said the ad purposely darkened her skin color. […]
State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, told WIND radio host Dan Proft, who is the president of People Who Play By The Rules PAC, that Lightfoot’s position was offensive to darker skinned people like himself.
“You don’t come out against the color of your skin when it could really make that color be offended,” Ford said. “The color that you had her in is just a little shade darker than me.” […]
Lightfoot doubled down on her comments Monday and said she didn’t understand where Ford was coming from.
“I don’t even know what to say in response to that,” Lightfoot said. “If you’re not offended by that, I don’t know what to say to you.”
Joe Severino, the GOP nominee for Illinois’ 10th district House seat, has used social media in the past to falsely blame the Highland Park shooting on the town’s mayor.
After the massacre, Severino wrote a Facebook comment in a private group blaming Mayor Nancy Rotering (D) for the shooting at the town’s Fourth of July parade that killed seven people and injured dozens.
“Further, people are celebrating Mayor Rotering as a leader when she is indirectly responsible for the shooting,” Severino falsely claimed. “She was running against the shooters father and well aware of this family’s turmoil.”
There is no evidence that Rotering had any prior knowledge or tip that would have given her, or anyone else, prior knowledge of the shooter’s plan.
Severino is set to take on incumbent Rep. Brad Schneider (D) in the general election in November. Schneider’s campaign condemned the comments made in Severino’s Facebook post.
“Joe Severino’s misinformation around the Highland Park shooting is disgusting and has no place in our politics,” said Schneider’s campaign manager Matt Fried. “If he had a shred of decency, he would apologize to Mayor Rotering and the families of the victims whose memories he has sullied by lying about the tragedy and making common cause with conspiracy theorists.”
Pension expert Richard Ennis took a closer look at 24 such funds, including two big ones in Illinois. In a recent issue of the Journal of Portfolio Management, he wrote that they underperformed passive investing indexes by an average 1.4 percentage points, despite reporting a 0.3-point positive margin against benchmarks. Only one of the funds beat indexing over the 10-year period.
“This sharp disconnect raises questions about the usefulness of the funds’ performance reporting, as well as their heavy reliance on expensive active management,” he concluded. “Altogether, the results paint an unflattering portrait of the stewardship of public pension funds in the United States.”
Ennis, 78, is a retired chairman of industry consultant EnnisKnupp (acquired in 2010 by Hewitt Associates, now part of Aon) and a former editor of Financial Analysts Journal. He argues that funds set benchmarks too low and then overpay managers once performance is made to appear better than it is. He estimates that management fees average 1.3% of assets—roughly equaling the fund underperformance he measured.
Among the two dozen funds he surveyed, the $66 billion Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois was the fourth-worst performing, reporting an annualized return (8.3%) that was 3.23 percentage points lower than an indexed return. The gap was a negative 1.24 points, just above the median, for the $24 billion State Employees Retirement System of Illinois. For the State Universities Retirement System, which Ennis examined at Crain’s request, the shortfall was 1.9 points.
TRS in particular came out looking especially bad in Ennis’ analysis. Its active management record “is among the worst of the approximately 50 large funds in my dataset,” Ennis told Crain’s Steven R. Strahler. “The excess return of -3.23% for TRS means that it underperformed passive investment by that margin annually for 10 years.”
So what would Ennis do to hold public pensions more accountable and set them on a path toward healthy funding levels?
“I would bring about the type of reform initiated in the private sector in the wake of the Studebaker debacle,” Ennis said, referring to the epic implosion of Studebaker-Packard, which closed its South Bend, Ind., plant in 1963 and subsequently slashed pensions for roughly 4,000 workers. That collapse ultimately inspired the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, signed into law by President Gerald Ford a decade later. That law, among other things, established minimum funding requirements for corporate pension plans. It also required that liabilities be reported at their market value. “The reform played out over decades and in piecemeal fashion,” Ennis noted, “but these are the two pillars that set apart public and private plan funding: assured funding and liability valuation.”
Illinois’ public employee pension plans could certainly use a lot more of both.
* I asked TRS for a response to the original article. Here’s Dave Urbanek…
The conclusions drawn by Mr. Ennis are limited to the subjective conditions, benchmarks and timeframe he selected to develop his analysis.
Due to TRS’s under-funded status, the System’s primary objective is to protect member assets against large market drawdowns caused by market volatility, such as we have seen this year.
Market returns are asymmetric. As an extreme example, a 50% loss requires 100% gain to break even. With this in mind, TRS believes the most prudent portfolio is a diversified one that seeks to participate in the upside of the market but is also positioned to better protect assets in times of high market volatility.
The analysis Mr. Ennis performed is limited in scope. The 10-year period used within Mr. Ennis’ research ended in 2020 and is predominantly a period of very strong equity returns. More importantly, it includes a period where a select few U.S.-based high-growth technology companies, such as Apple and Google, dominated the returns in passive equity index funds. While TRS holds large positions in passive index funds and such companies, the System is mindful to diversify the volatility risk such exposures can have on the total portfolio.
Even during this high growth investment environment, the overall TRS portfolio maintained a performance ranking in the top 25th percentile among U.S. public pension systems during that 10-year horizon ending in June 2020. In that period, the System ranked in the 22nd percentile of 193 funds with more than $1 billion in assets, and in the 25th percentile of 33 funds with more than $25 billion.
Through June 30, 2022 and during the environment of market volatility, the TRS diversified strategy performed as intended. As significant market volatility, rising inflation, and interest rate increases hit in early calendar year 2022, the TRS portfolio performed very well and ranked in the top 10% of the broad peer universe for the first six months of 2022.
For the fiscal year ended June 20, 2022, TRS’s -1.2% return, net of fees, compares very favorably to the median public plan’s return of -7.1%. Further, the TRS portfolio also maintains its top quartile rankings for annualized 5, 10, and 20-year periods that ended on June 30, 2022.
TRS is managing the assets of our 432,000 members using a diversified approach so that we can pay retirement benefits as required by law. For more than 80 years, TRS has paid all benefits on time and in full.
In fiscal year 2022, TRS paid more than $7 billion in benefits to approximately 128,000 beneficiaries. TRS will continue to position its $63 billion investment portfolio to ensure it is able to fulfill its stated mission to its members and pay all benefits on time and in full.
“The term ‘blind trust’ is being used here as a thin shield to conceal the governor’s pursuit of personal profits,” said Bridget J. Crawford, a professor at Pace University’s law school who reviewed the BGA reporting. “This is not a blind trust in any meaningful sense of the phrase.”
* The Question: What should the governor or the legislature do, if anything, to increase the “blindness” of Pritzker’s blind trust? Some ideas from NCSL are here.
* We have a lot of veterans of government on this blog, so I’m curious what y’all think of this proposal…
Governor Pritzker today announced new measures as part of the ongoing efforts to address staffing shortages in the State of Illinois’ agencies that provide essential health and safety services to Illinois’ most vulnerable residents. The State is working to fill vacancies and hire thousands of frontline staff in the Departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Veteran’s Affairs. Interested individuals may visit work.illinois.gov to apply and search for jobs by agency, title, or county.
“Since COVID-19 upended our State—and world—we have experienced severe labor shortages that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching a laser-focused recruitment and retention strategy to attract quality professionals in the social services and healthcare fields. No matter the challenges of today’s job market, our administration is mobilizing every available resource to make sure every resident has access to the critical services they need and deserve.”
Like many employers across the nation, including other governmental bodies, the State is facing an increasingly challenging job market. In the two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government sector in the U.S. has lost over 600,000 workers, which is more than manufacturing, wholesale trade, and construction industries combined. Additionally, the healthcare industry has suffered significant labor shortage issues due to burnout from the pandemic. To address the staffing challenges faced by many of our service agencies, the following immediate actions will be taken:
• On an emergency basis, the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) will develop and implement a State-wide recruiting campaign focused on direct care staff serving in State mental health centers, homes for persons with developmental disabilities, and veterans’ homes, as well as staff supporting the State’s corrections facilities.
• On an emergency basis, CMS will assess, draft, and implement retention measures targeting employees at facilities that are open 24/7, which are unique and may require specialized resources. Given the financial and operational costs resulting from extensive employee turnover and unfilled positions in these vital functions, it is critical the State take as many steps as possible to address retention.
• CMS, working with the Departments of Human Services (DHS), Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), and Corrections (DOC), is directed to leverage all existing State resources and community partnerships available. This includes expanding their recruitment teams and partnering with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to amplify available vacancies to those individuals who are experiencing unemployment. Additionally, IDES is directed to send targeted outreach to those receiving unemployment insurance benefits or participating in the State’s Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program.
• CMS, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and IDES are directed to leverage existing local workforce partners to encourage additional targeted outreach intended to bolster the applicant pool of qualified candidates for State jobs. These agencies are also directed to increase virtual job fairs across State platforms to recruit new workers.
Today’s announcement emphasizes Governor Pritzker’s commitment to increasing the State’s workforce and ensuring employees have sufficient resources to continue to provide the service that Illinois residents expect. Through these efforts, the State is looking to build and retain its workforce with concentration in the following positions: correctional officers, physicians, nurses, mental health technicians, support service workers, social workers, security therapy aids, security officers, and other critical positions that support the health and safety of the State’s residents.
These steps are the latest in a series of initiatives designed to prepare, attract, and retain the necessary talent pool for roles in State government. Continued efforts include:
Marketing and Recruitment for Critical Vacancies
Since taking office, Governor Pritzker’s Administration has worked to implement practices to attract talent to its workforce:
• Revamped Hiring Processes – The State has implemented a new electronic application and hiring processes for all State positions which allows job seekers to search for and apply to jobs online, including using mobile devices. Visit work.illinois.gov to learn more about job opportunities with the State of Illinois.
• Expanded Outreach – The Bureau of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) within CMS administers the State’s workforce diversity programs and coordinates closely with the Governor’s Office of Equity and the African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American Employment Plan Advisory Councils, made up of community activists from across the State. Over the last two years, CMS has created or participated in more than 69 outreach and recruitment events.
• Increased Recruitment – Since the beginning of 2021, State agencies, including CMS, DVA, DHS, and DOC have participated in 549 job fairs and hiring events. Recruiting teams also met with prospective employees at the 2022 Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the State Fair in DuQuoin. Applicants are encouraged to visit the Governor’s Tent at the Illinois State Fair in DuQuoin to learn more about State employment, set up job alerts, and apply for vacancies on the spot.
• Improved Career Counseling Services – CMS counseling staff work with internal and external candidates to evaluate their education and experience as well as employment interests/preferences, salary expectations, and geographical location to determine job titles that are the best fit for their future success. Career counselors also assist applicants with applying to State positions for which they may qualify.
Retention of Existing Staff
State employees make a difference every day in the lives of their fellow residents. Nowhere is that difference more tangible than in residential facilities, where State employees are entrusted with providing safe, healthy, and thriving environments. The benefits of State employment include more than just the satisfaction of purpose-driven work. In addition to generous healthcare benefits, robust paid time off, including paid parental leave, and pension benefits, the State has continued to implement and enhance employee benefits and retention measures:
• Career Mobility - Upward Mobility Program (UMP), the career mobility program administered jointly with the State’s largest labor partner, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), is designed to give State employees an opportunity to advance to more challenging, higher paying positions through targeted career counseling and direct-paid educational and training opportunities.
• Ongoing Professional Development - CMS University, a web-based, continuing education and professional development site to assist all State employees. Through curated sessions and live events, employees can expand their knowledge or brush up on tools to support their work.
• Be Well Illinois, the State’s employee wellness program, launched in January 2021 by CMS to improve the overall health and wellness of the State’s workforce. Be Well Illinois uses a comprehensive approach to wellness and incorporates educational resources and activities designed to improve physical, financial and mental health and raise awareness about the benefits of healthy eating, exercise and cultural topics.
• MyBenefits Plus program, an expanded voluntary benefits program to attract prospective employees and support retirees and active employees of the State. This program includes legal services, pet, auto, home, hospital indemnity, critical illness and accident insurance offerings that complement State-sponsored programs.
• Purchasing Power program allows employees to make major purchases such as computers, appliances, electronics and more when paying with cash or credit is not an option. Participants receive their product up front and pay over 6 or 12 months directly from their paycheck.
• COVID-19 support programs for employees throughout the pandemic including a specialized mobile-enabled micro-website, with information about vaccinations, workplace updates, and resources guides for employees.
*** UPDATE *** From AFSCME Council 31…
Statement of AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch in response to Pritzker Administration’s hiring initiative
“We welcome Governor Pritzker’s initiative to address critical staffing shortages in state agencies where employees care for veterans, treat mental illness, support people with developmental disabilities and safely incarcerate and rehabilitate those convicted of crimes.
“Nearly 7,000 positions in state government were vacant at the start of 2022. Especially hard-hit are 24/7 facilities such as veterans’ homes, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and centers for people with developmental disabilities. Also of great concern is understaffing in the Department of Children and Family Services, which is charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect. As a result, in all of these settings, employees are burning out, safety is at risk, and overtime costs are rising.
“AFSCME members on the front lines struggle daily to provide essential services despite the challenges of working short-staffed. Earlier this month, Governor Pritzker met with a group of our local union leaders who work in these settings and could describe firsthand the difficulties they and their coworkers face.
“With today’s announcement, the Pritzker Administration is moving forward to reduce the bureaucratic delays in the state hiring process that have been so frustrating to so many, and to redouble its efforts to recruit needed new hires. In the days ahead our union will do everything possible to advance these efforts.
“AFSCME members in state government are helpers, problem solvers, people who are dedicated to serving their community. They earn a family-supporting wage, affordable health care and a pension that provides for dignity in retirement. We urge anyone looking for a good job doing good work in their community to apply.”
Our schools have been hijacked with woke policies and it has to end. Just this week, a few days ago, I announced that we’ve got, we’ve got some major changes with our college systems and especially the U of I. Everywhere I go, I talk to students and parents who are frustrated because they can’t get their children enrolled at the U of I.
And, and just last night by press that, I was asked, well, what’s the answer? Because if we don’t allow all these foreign students to come, you know the U of I might start hurting financially.
We have got to start thinking of government just exactly like we think of it with our businesses. If we can’t afford it, we don’t do it. If it’s not working, we cut it or we change it. And unfortunately, the answer with the University of Illinois as I was asked by press last night, it’s not adding more taxes. It’s making the school more efficient. Money is being wasted, priorities are being wasted.
Our own students because of our own tax money that supports this school aren’t able to go to this school. It’s time for a change. There’s absolutely no reason that the president of the college should be making a million dollars. That is a public service, there is no reason, there is no excuse for that.
The U of I has got to be challenged to become the great school that it’s intended to be. And unfortunately, we’re struggling with, that they should be front and center with many of these advances and with our economy.
Why isn’t the U of I being utilized more by by state government to challenge the system, to come up with a pension solution? There you go, U of I, come up with a pension solution. Let’s hear it. Nobody wants to talk about it instead. Well, anyway, I’ll stop there. But friends, we’ve got work to do.
U of I’s Associate Chancellor Robin Kaler said in a statement their goal is to attract a strong, high quality applicant pool with a diverse blend of students from in-state, across the country and the world. Kaler said the “biggest challenge” when it comes to enrolling in-state students is many say they can’t afford tuition. She said the school has addressed their financial concerns by offering programs like the Illinois Commitment, which offers free tuition for students whose families earn $67,100 a year or less.
The school admitted a record-breaking number of freshmen last fall – just over 8,300. 5,835 of those were from Illinois, and 2,468 were not.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday vowed that “anti-choice” politicians will lose in November, as he stood surrounded by Planned Parenthood leaders who are still awaiting legislative fixes — and funds — to help handle an influx of patients coming to Illinois to seek abortion care services. […]
But the event also highlighted that the pledge Pritzker made on June 24 to call the Illinois General Assembly back into session in Springfield to “further enshrine” reproductive rights remains unfulfilled. Similarly, Pritzker voiced support for an assault weapons ban after the Highland Park massacre. But is likely to find it difficult to drum up enough support in an election year. […]
Those discussions involve legislation to protect medical providers from legal, criminal and civil liability, expand the capacity of providers who can provide abortions and measures to protect and grow clinics, Pritzker said. […]
[Yamelsie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region and Southwest Missouri] said wait times went from three to four days to two and a half weeks. She said Illinois has seen a 76% increase in abortions after 14 weeks of gestation. […]
“Is this going to be sustainable over time, when we’re thinking $900 to $1,500 just to provide practical support for transportation and accommodation? No,” Rodriguez said. “And we made that very clear to Gov. Pritzker why this is an imperative, and we will continue to work with him to ensure that we have a sustainable platform here.”
* Pritzker acknowledged that in order for any measures to take immediate effect, he’ll need support from the legislature’s Democratic supermajorities. After Jan. 1, only a simple majority would be required…
Legislators are hard at work, now, I think you know, in working groups, in fact working with Planned Parenthood and many other pro-choice organizations to make sure that they can craft the legislation that we need. You heard about the need to protect from legal liability, criminal and civil liability that other states want to bring against people in Illinois, against their own people who come to Illinois. Those are parts of what needs to be addressed by the legislature. Then there’s the expansion of capacity, allowing nurse practitioners to perform procedures to make sure that we’re protecting and growing the existing capacity of the clinics that are here and then attracting other clinics to come to Illinois. Those are all things that are being considered by the working groups in the legislature. […]
Well, I think you know that there are two things that you have to consider one is there is a legislature, the legislature has to do its work and he is hard at work. Second, that as you know when Special Session when things need to be passed with a supermajority. That’s harder than doing it with a simple majority. So there’s some things that can be done could be done with a supermajority, some things that take a simple majority. So again, the legislature is working through all those things.
Pritzker said his executive authority only goes so far.
“There are things that you can’t do as an executive order. There are things that the legislature really does need to do, we need it enshrined into law,” Pritzker said. “So, again, those things are all being worked out. We’re talking with the legislature, working with the attorney general’s office.”
Illinois Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said the hold up may be that Democrats are gauging public sentiment.
“I think it’s because the Democrats understand that what they want to do is go even farther on abortion, even more extreme than any other state in the country,” McConchie told The Center Square earlier this month. “I think they recognize we already have some of the most extreme abortion laws in the country. Going further might actually alienate voters this fall.”
Welch has tapped nine House Democrats to work with advocates on legislative proposals, but those negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, an outspoken proponent of abortion rights who was assigned to lead the group, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on its progress.
Senate Democrats have not announced a formal negotiating team, but Harmon spokesman John Patterson said, “There are ongoing internal discussions.”
Pritzker spoke to reporters Tuesday after meeting privately with the heads of the Illinois and St. Louis regional chapters of Planned Parenthood, along with Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The Planned Parenthood leaders all praised Pritzker for his support of abortion access and argued for the importance of the Nov. 8 election in determining the future of reproductive health care in Illinois and across the country.
The state of Illinois, the city of Chicago, and 10 members of the U.S. House delegation have all joined friend-of-the-court briefs in one of the biggest U.S. Supreme Court cases of the coming term. They are backing the state of Colorado in the defense of its public-accommodations law against a challenge by a wedding website designer who cites a religious objection for refusing to do work for same-sex nuptials.
The case is 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which will be argued sometime in the term that begins Oct. 3, with a decision expected by late June 2023. Website designer Lorie Smith went to court seeking a ruling that Colorado could not enforce its anti-bias law against her graphic design firm because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
It’s among the most hot-button cases in a term that follows the one in which the justices overruled a half-century of abortion rights and made it more difficult for states and cities to regulate guns. […]
The friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Colorado, filed late last week, are among 70 filed on both sides of the case. A separate brief by other members of Congress filed in June supports the website designer, though no members of the Illinois delegation signed that one.
* Attorney General Kwame Raoul signed a brief with 21 states to argue that commercial enterprises should not have religious-based exemptions to anti-discrimination laws that protect individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Chicago Corporation Counsel Celia Meza signed a brief with 54 local governments to argue that city, town, and county anti-discrimination protections “reflect a democratically determined commitment to equality and inclusion in the public sphere.” And 10 US House Democrats, Reps. Sean Casten, Danny K. Davis, Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Marie Newman, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush, Jan Schakowsky, Lauren Underwood, and Brad Schneider signed a brief with 137 fellow US Representatives supporting Colorado.
* Also, former state employee Mark Janus filed a brief arguing Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws require a form of impermissible government-compelled speech. Janus won a 2018 Supreme Court case which ruled that government employees could not be forced to join a union and could not be required to pay union dues or fees. Crain’s reported that Janus’ brief was written by the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, the same organization that took up the challenge to union fees.
* I’m told that Secretary of State Jesse White tested negative for COVID-19 and is back to working in the office today. His office announced last week that he’d tested positive and was experiencing mild symptoms.