‘A Long Train of Abuses’: So Many Outrageous Illinois Government Headlines, So Little Time

If you’re in the mood for punishment, read the articles below about the “long train of abuses” we’ve suffered here in Illinois. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to just peruse the headlines.

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Taxpayer Costs Soared as Illinois Public College & University Enrollment Dropped

There’s no question – there’s something wrong with Illinois higher education. While enrollments trended downward, pay and pension benefits spiked upward. Soon, some Illinois colleges may have more staffers than students.

In 2016, the freshman class enrollment at Chicago State University numbered just 86 incoming students. Meanwhile, the university employed 980 staffers. Even after the ratio was exposed, the numbers haven’t sustainably improved. In 2017, just 145 freshmen enrolled at Chicago State, but the university payroll shows 660 employees costing nearly $40 million.

For the last two decades, Illinois’s public colleges and universities vastly increased the cost of their payrolls and lavished extraordinary lifetime pension payouts – but the institutions have yet to see a measurable increase in students. Quite to the contrary, enrollments decreased by nearly 8 percent over the last 17 years.

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Flying Blind: Illinois’ Revenue Estimates and the Basics of Bad Budgeting

Flying blind: Illinois’ revenue estimates and the basics of bad budgeting
Lawmakers can’t balance the budget if they don’t know how much they have to spend.

Illinois hasn’t had a truly balanced budget for more than 15 years. And state spending has far outpaced growth in residents’ incomes. These are two reasons why Illinois is in desperate need of a spending cap that ensures residents are getting a state government they can afford.

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State’s bond rating ‘uncommonly low’ due to ‘crisis-like budget environment’

Illinois may have a budget for the first time in three years, but S&P Global Ratings remains leery — putting the state still just one notch above junk status, in part because of its “persistent crisis-like budget environment.”

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Illinois Debt Mounting

A new report about Illinois’ finances raises fresh questions about the state’s ability to pay its bills on time.

Government finance watchdog Truth in Accounting Research Director Bill Bergman said it’s a sign the state’s debt problem is getting worse.

“It’s a trainwreck,” Bergman said. “The rate of deterioration accelerated last year.”
Bergman said the report may not be the entire picture, because it’s already old data…

“And in fact they expect it to grow in the future, not shrink,” Bergman said. “That’s what they say in the report. That’s a little harrowing. So, have a nice day, Illinois.”

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Chicago Public Schools Sinks $1B Deeper in Debt

Estimates cite lackluster returns, Gov.’s spending plan as causes of debt hit.

Chicago’s pension system has taken another blow as unfavorable investment returns have driven the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) $1 billion deeper into debt.

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Lake County homeowners: Where do your property taxes go? (With a little emphasis added!)

In 2017 alone, Lake County billed homeowners $1.8 billion in property taxes. Owners of a median-valued home in Lake Forest received a $13,600 property tax bill.

Illinoisans shoulder some of the heaviest state and local tax burdens in the country. And increasingly, property taxes are weighing down this massive load. Between 2008 and 2015, for example, property tax bills grew six times faster than household incomes.

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Latest Illinois CAFR shows increased debt, worst in nation

A new report about Illinois’ finances raises fresh questions about the state’s ability to pay its bills on time.

In one year alone, Illinois state government’s long-term net deficit ballooned more than $10 billion. A government finance watchdog says that’s a sign of the state’s continued debt-heavy condition.

Including pension liabilities and bonded debt, the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the state of Illinois had the net long-term deficit at $141.7 billion. The near-term deficit for the state was $14.6 billion.

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New Financial Statements: Illinois’ Net Worth Plummets Deeper Into The Red

The State of Illinois this month released its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the 2017 fiscal year. It’s basically the audited actual financial results for the year — 383 pages worth…

The state lost $9.9 billion in 2017 by that measure, falling to negative $137 billion. For a little perspective on how much that is, the state’s total revenue is about $38 billion, so it sustained a loss for the year equal to over a quarter of its income.

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Chicago Tribune Editorial: In four letters, why people leave Cook County: J-O-B-S

Why did metropolitan Dallas gain 146,238 residents last year while the Chicago area lost 13,286 people? Don’t say, “the weather.” It’s jobs. The promise of a solid paycheck would cover the cost of hats and mittens — or a U-Haul rental to the Texas.

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Illinois Budget Deficit Soars to $14.6 Billion in FY 2017

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois’ general fund budget deficit grew by 52 percent in fiscal 2017 to a record $14.6 billion as political feuding pushed the state deeper into the red, according to an annual financial report released on Thursday by the Illinois Auditor General.

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More than 80 percent of Illinois counties saw population loss in 2017

More than 80 percent of Illinois counties saw population loss in 2017
As outmigration fuels population decline throughout the state, Cook County saw the largest numeric population loss of any county in the nation.

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Illinois bill backlog up over $9 billion again

You didn’t really think that solved anything did you? Count on the bill backlog to continue to increase.

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Op-ed: Illinois pulling away from rest of U.S. in overtaxing its populace

Illinoisans’ tax burden is high.

Anyone who lives here and works here knows that.

Property taxes. Income taxes. Sales taxes. Annual car registrations fees. And so on.

Seemingly everyone except those who earned it has their hands in our pockets, taking what should belong to us.

While we know we pay too much in taxes, the latest analysis by a national financial website puts into perspective the magnitude of that burden.

According to WalletHub, the median household in Illinois pays more in combined state and local taxes than anywhere else in the country – and it’s not even really that close.

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New rankings show Illinois dead worst on total state and local tax burden

We now have the first study on total state and local tax burdens done since Illinois raised its income tax rate last year. Illinois has the highest burden — 51st among other states and DC. That’s no surprise since rankings done before the tax hike already had Illinois at or near the highest tax burden.

Illinoisans pay a staggering 38% more in state and local taxes than the average American with median national household income, according to the study. And that’s the right metric to look at in the study: total taxes in different states on a given amount of income.

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Report: Illinoisans pay highest local, state taxes in country

Illinoisans pay more than $8,300 per home in state and local taxes, more than any other state in the nation. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by financial site WalletHub.

In their annual rankings of taxpayer burden by state, WalletHub says Illinois households give up just under 15 percent of their annual earnings to pay state and local taxes. They pay federal taxes on top of that.

This is the second consecutive year that Illinois has been ranked 51st in the nation in weight of local tax burden.

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Illinois sees stagnant jobs growth, declining labor force in January

Illinois sees stagnant jobs growth, declining labor force in January
Despite healthy jobs growth nationally, Illinoisans are desperate for work.

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Report: Illinois is 2018’s least fiscally stable state

Illinois is the most financially unstable state in the nation, according to new ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

The ranking of 2018’s most fiscally unstable states was conducted by McKinsey & Company, the global management and consulting firm. The report considered credit rating and state public pension liability to rank states on long-term stability. For short term, the report measured each state’s cash solvency and budget balance.
Illinois was 50th overall.

The state’s pension debt – commonly estimated at $130 billion, but measured as high as $250 billion last summer by Moody’s – was a factor. That debt load was cited by Moody’s and other creditors as a cause of the state’s near junk rating.

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Your local school district might be asking for more money

Illinois’ state and local governments combined send more money to public education per student than any surrounding state, by a healthy margin. This holds true even when taking Illinois’ property-rich school districts — where taxpayers shell out big dollars for special amenities — out of the equation.

And yet, Illinois students’ college readiness is below the national average, according to ACT testing data.

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Illinois’ regressive pension funding scheme: wealthiest school districts benefit most

Most Illinoisans don’t know Dr. Ray Lechner, the retiring Superintendent of Wilmette School District 39, but they should.

After all, Illinoisans have been contributing to his upcoming $6.6 million pension for years, even though he’s an employee of the Wilmette school district, not the state.

That’s how it works for all teachers and administrators in Illinois, whether it’s a superintendent from Lake Forest or a school counselor from Mt. Vernon – school districts pay the salaries while the state funds the pensions.

It’s this kind of arrangement, where one unit of government doles out the benefits while another one pays for them, which makes Illinois so dysfunctional.

It’s a scheme that allows districts to spend more money on salaries and perks than they otherwise would.

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Poll: 4 of 5 voters think Illinois on wrong track

A new poll shows Illinoisans are upset with just about all things political.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale asked 1,000 Illinois voters if they thought the state was moving in the right direction.
Eighty-four percent of voters said they thought the state was on the wrong path while nine percent were satisfied with the state’s trajectory. Their feelings about the nation as a whole were slightly more optimistic, with 27 percent choosing the right track option while a total of 64 percent chose wrong direction. Another 9 percent said they didn’t know.

Institute director John Shaw said the discontentment in Illinois was greater than any other state.

“It would be hard to overstate just how angry, frustrated and disgruntled Illinois citizens are with their government,” he said. “More than four out of five say that the state is headed in the wrong direction. Those are numbers you don’t find in many democracies.”
It’s not a new trend…

The institute found in a 2016 poll that more than half of Illinoisans would move out of the state if they could. Their top reason: High taxes.

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Transparency group finds pay spiking practices continue to cost taxpayers in Illinois

A new report of Illinois public employee pay by government transparency advocate Open the Books shows 144 local government employees in the state making more than $190,000, out-earning every governor.

This is according to records they received from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Some got raises of more than double their salaries from the previous year of work.
“This is purely and simply public employee greed,” Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski said. “Our report shows citizens better start paying attention locally.”

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Illinois Household Income Up 111% In Past 30 Years; State Pension Benefits …. Up 1,061%

Wirepoints, a website dedicated to reporting on economic issues in the state of Illinois has some shocking news which is relevant to the entire country. The economics website has issued a new report claiming that Illinois’ State pension Crisis is not due to funding shortfalls. Instead, the authors of this report, Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner, argue that rising pension benefit obligations are the source of the State’s pension ills. Last year, the state experienced difficulty paying $15 billion in unpaid bills and passed a 32% income tax hike in an emergency legislation secession to remain solvent. Some predict that the state will be the first to file bankruptcy since Arkansas, during the great depression.

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The ‘Big Dogs’ of Illinois Municipal Government: 2017 Edition

Who are the ‘Big Dogs’ in 2017 – our list of the most highly compensated public employees in Illinois local government? It’s a who’s who of public servants – but most you’ve never heard of – who learned how to game the system for personal gain.

The latest salary and compensation data captured by our organization and posted at OpenTheBooks.com from fiscal year 2017 shows Illinois local governments needs far more scrutiny. With many Americans focused on Washington, D.C., citizens aren’t doing enough to stop taxpayer abuse in their own backyards, in their own neighborhoods.

In Illinois, 144 employees at local units of government made more than $190,000 and out-earned every governor. These highly compensated public employees work for municipalities, counties, health clinics, forest preserves, water, park, airport, and mass transit districts, and even some school districts.

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And finally, note this article’s extended excerpt!:

Leaving Illinois: One family’s math

It’s not just people with limited means that are looking elsewhere for a more fair deal. Some on the North Shore also don’t like what they see. They don’t like how they’re being disrespected by their politicians – paying ever-higher taxes for ever-fewer services. And as Illinoisans leave, the state’s tax base shrinks, making it even harder on those who remain.

One of those people leaving is a North Shore neighbor I recently met. He and his family are leaving Illinois for Colorado.

For him, the calculus was simple.

Stay and pay more and more for a government he trusts less and less, or leave and save $1 million dollars.

His North Shore property taxes are about $27,000 a year. Taxes on his new home in Colorado – he’s already purchased the home – are just $3,300.

Saving that difference year after year, and investing those proceeds at 6 percent, means he will save $1,000,000 over 20 years. For retirement. For healthcare. For his kids’ education. Or for charity and travel.

And Colorado isn’t going to swallow those property tax savings with a different set of taxes. Illinois has the highest state and local tax burden in the nation, according to Wallethub. Colorado has the 39th highest burden.

That’s the same sort of calculation that people across Illinois are doing, whether it saves them $10,000 or $1,000,000. They are doing the math and looking for an exit. A 2016 Paul Simon poll found that 47 percent of Illinoisans want to leave Illinois and their number one reason for leaving is taxes.

And the house my neighbor is getting in Colorado for just $3,300 in property taxes and at a much lower price than his Illinois house? It’s on more than an acre. A beautiful location on the side of a mountain. Paved roads. Top schools. And just an hour from some the best ski slopes in Colorado.

A million people and more

Residents have been leaving Illinois at an alarming rate to find better opportunities elsewhere. From 2000 to 2017, Illinois lost a net of more than 1.3 million people to other states. That’s the equivalent of wiping Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, Naperville, Springfield, Peoria, Elgin, Waukegan, Cicero, Champaign and Bloomington off the map.