Archive for the ‘Pensions’ Category

Illinois’ Pension Problems Get Worse; Lottery Checks Bounce

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Two stories out of Illinois that are, perhaps, linked. First, the Illinois Lottery forgot to send some money to their bank. While a spokesperson for the Illinois Lottery said it was a mistake, one would think that balancing the checkbook is a high priority. While only $159,000 of checks bounced, and the Illinois Lottery will make good on the bounced check fees, it certainly can’t be considered good planning. (I do believe that this was an oversight.)

A far more serious issue for the Land of Lincoln is the growing backlog of bills. The Chicago-based Civic Federation says that unless pensions and Medicaid are cut, Illinois’ backlog of bills will triple to $22 billion in five years. The annual budget in Illinois is currently $24.3 billion. To put this in perspective, the total budget for the most recent fiscal year for Nevada is $4.9 billion.

Unlike the federal government which can print money, states can’t. Sooner or later Illinois will have to balance its books. The pension costs are not sustainable. So, do you increase taxes further, which drives business out of state, or do you cut pensions? Democrats control most offices in Illinois, and they don’t want to cut pensions. Yet tax increases won’t work in the long run, so cuts to entitlements on the state level will occur…sooner or later.

In the end, spending more money than you take in is a good way to go broke. If I were offered a government contract by the state of Illinois, I’d turn them down unless they’d pay me up-front. That’s the level that I think Illinois has fallen to.

Squeezy and Illinois

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up. The video (below) is a real video from Governor Quinn of Illinois:

Governor Quinn gives an excellent history of pensions but I notice there’s something missing from the video: solutions. Perhaps it’s because Illinois legislators and Governor Quinn promised that the 66% tax increase of 2011 would solve the problem. It didn’t. Illinois had $8 billion of unpaid bills when the tax increase was passed; there are $8 billion of unpaid bills today. Pensions ate up the tax increase.

There’s an editorial in the Chicago Tribune that notes that some Illinois legislators want to borrow money to pay for pensions. That’s a great solution: Let’s eliminate one debt problem by substituting another debt problem!

There is only one solution: Fundamental reform of the pension system. It’s going to be politically ugly: Democrats’ major interest group, public employee unions, will not like the results (pensions will be cut; that’s the only way out of the problem). Governor Quinn likens pensions to promises, and that they can’t be changed. Here’s a helpful hint to Illinois politicians: The taxpayers and companies that are resident in your state can leave to a far more friendly tax location. Sure, your income taxes aren’t that high (yet), but you’re sure heading in the wrong direction. If I were an executive with an Illinois-based business, I would be looking at other states. As I noted yesterday, moving a business is disruptive. Unfortunately, if you’re on a ship that’s struck an iceberg it’s time to head to the lifeboats. Illinois struck an iceberg called pensions. There’s still time to fix the hole but it’s now a more than $90 billion problem.

Chicago is a great city, and Illinois was a great place for my childhood. However, there are fifty states in the United States and Illinois appears to be following California into a cycle that will cause businesses that can leave to leave and for taxpayers to be caught in a cycle of ever-increasing taxes.

Pensions for All? California Legislator Introduces Mandatory Pension Bill

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Every time I think the Bronze Golden State has reached a new low, I have to remember that I should never overestimate the intelligence of the California legislature. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that requires any business with five or more employees to have a defined benefit pension plan. Employees would contribute around 3% of their wages into the plan; employers would be allowed to make voluntary contributions. The plans, though, would be mandatory to California businesses.

The unintended consequences of passage of this bill are simple. First, would employer contributions remain voluntary for long? I doubt it. And that leads to the second consequence: Fewer employers in California. Why would any business expand in high-cost California where regulation after regulation is put upon it when they can expand in a lower cost environment (such as Nevada or Texas). This leads to the final consequence: Fewer employees in California.

I also have to wonder if the Democrats in Sacramento have ever taken a course in basic economics.