Pritzker talks pensions
Thursday, Oct 6, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller
* From Brian Mackey’s interview with Gov. Pritzker…
Q: The pension liability still remains large and looming. Do you see any long-term changes that need to be made or or possible to make in that regard — beyond what’s already been done?
A: To be clear you can’t take care of your pension problem until you balance your budget, and we’ve been doing that. We’ve got to continue to balance our budget. This is not just a one time thing. Every year, we’ve got to make sure we’re actually paying the bills and balancing the budget. Then, in the wake of that, you can ask yourself: What should we do if we have surpluses? Should we put more money into our pension systems? Are there changes that we can make in the pension systems? I believe that if you paid into the pension system, and you were promised a pension, you should get that pension. The question is: How’s the state going to live up to that? And we’ve been slowly but surely increasing the percentage of funding of our pension system since I came into office. It’s been a goal of mine.
We increased a program that Mark Batinick, a Republican state representative, introduced before I came into office — that was a pilot program; I increased it to make sure that it’s open to everybody — and that’s to have your pension bought out by the state. You can get your money up front, and it’s less costly to the state. That’s just one of the things that we’re doing.
Getting better returns on our investments, making sure we’re consolidating as I did with police and fire pensions across the state. Seventy-five years people have tried to do that; I did it when I came into office, and it’s saving property taxpayers across the country across the state — and will save them — billions of dollars. So a lot of work that continues to be done on our pensions, both state and local, and we need to continue. But balancing the budget is the very first and most important thing you need to do.
* Yvette Shields at the Bond Buyer catches us up on the lawsuit to stop the state’s consolidation of those local public safety pension funds…
The unfunded liabilities of Illinois’ suburban and downstate public safety pensions rose to $13 billion in the last year of compiled results reported to the state, soaring over a 29-year climb that underscores the deep strains on local government budgets.
The funded health of the public safety pension funds has tumbled over the years. In 1991, the collective ratio was at 75.65% and peaked at 77.31% in 1999. The police funds ended 2019 at 54.98% and firefighters were at 54.35%. The health of some individual funds, however, are far weaker with ratios only in the teens. […]
Kane County Circuit Court Judge Robert K. Villa in a May ruling sided with the state in his long-awaited opinion saying he could not extend the term benefits beyond the reach of prior Illinois Supreme Court cases to find the challenged legislation unconstitutional against the Pension Clause’s protections.
The plaintiffs filed their opening brief Aug. 31 and the state’s is due Friday with the plaintiffs’ reply then due Oct. 21. The appellate court will then decide whether it will grant oral argument on the case.
The case could eventually land on the desk of the Illinois Supreme Court for the final word.
They just can’t let it go.