Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Wednesday, September 27

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

The Mechanics
« On International Womens Day, Group Rallies for Mammogram Funding Undocumented Youth Ready to "Come Out" »

Illinois Tue Mar 09 2010

Why You Shouldn't Be Surprised the State is in This Budget Mess

The really short answer is because Dan Hynes warned us this was going to happen back in 2006.

Paying increased costs for employee pensions, health care for the poor and debt service will eat up virtually all new money the state can expect to bring in over the next three years, Comptroller Dan Hynes said Monday.

The state faces "a serious crisis" by 2010 unless lawmakers take a long-term view of state finances, Hynes told a business group in Chicago.

But this is a problem that has been brewing for years and years. The current economic situation may have hastened it, but this day has been coming for a long time and a large number of different issues have contributed to it.

The Pension Shortfall

For example, the state pension shortfall that has gotten a lot of press attention lately is nothing new. Back in 1995 the state started on a 50-year plan to get the pension system back in line; that lasted all the way until 2003 when, in his first budget, Rod Blagojevich floated $10 billion in 30-year bonds to cover two years worth of pension payments. The state characterized "profits" that would accrue over 30 years to justify not making the pension payment for two years (PDF). The state looked at doing the same thing in 2007.

Stupid Budget Tricks

As I have been searching my blog for budget items I have been finding things that go back five years and longer. During the Blagojevich era lots of ideas were floated to make more money available. Lots of them basically were of the "let's treat tomorrow's possible savings as today's revenue, and do fund sweeps" sort. That is, taking special purpose funds and treating them as general revenue funds.

Then there is the all-time classic of just pushing last year's bills into the next fiscal year. As Pew points out, in 1998 we did this with $752 million worth of Medicaid bills, in 2003 it was $1.85 billion and has only grown since then. As the Civic Federation showed recently (PDF), the state has run a general fund deficit every year since FY2002 in large part because the state has carried over the deficit from the prior year.

Coming soon, part two: State Debt, the $25.4bn gorilla.

GB store

pratfall / March 9, 2010 10:43 PM

someone needs a copy editor, stat.

Just another man / March 10, 2010 9:27 AM

Welcome to the Public Employee Pension Bubble!

The state is upside down in regard to its public employee pension obligation. Anyone with a small amount of financial training can see that pension reform must be a cornerstone of any rational effort at financial solvency. Would you expect that the unions and their political lackeys will agree to reform?

Why was one of President Obama's first acts as president to relax unions' financial reporting requirements? Could it be to hide their fund shortfalls? To hide their poltical donations?

As you see in Wall street, when the regulators are colluding with the enitities they are supposed to watch, bubbles form and then burst.

If you want to see what IL is going to go thru if nothing changes, all one needs to do is look at California. They've had to cut out their higher ed funding (ironically, leading to Berkely protests) because the politicians chose to keep the public employee pension outlays in tact (even though they were pegged to unrealistic terms).

Another Man / March 10, 2010 10:03 AM is a sample from Moody's on the pension funding percentage and it is disastrous across the entire country. (not all public employee, but you get the picture)

In simple words: When the members want to retire, there will not be funds available to pay for them. Hence the desperation for

1.) Employee Free Choice Act - coercing more people on to union rolls, feed the ponzi scheme.
2.) Government bailout via union backed politicians

Union Pension Plan % Funded
. Alaska Hotel & Restaurant Employees Pension Plan 79.70%
. American Federation of Musicians & Employers Pension 78.90%
. Teamsters Local 639 Employers Pension Trust 76.10%
. Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan 75.90%
. Ohio Operating Engineers Pension Plan 75.70%
Laborers District Council and Contractors Pension Fund of Ohio 75.40%
. Southern Nevada Culinary & Bartenders Pension Trust 75.40%
. Alaska Electrical Pension Plan 74.30%
. Alaska Laborers - Employers Retirement Fund 73.70% . Electrical Contractors Assoc. of City of Chicago Union 134, IBEW Jt. Pension 2 73.70% . Carpenters Retirement Plan of Western Washington 73.10% Automotive Industries Pension Plan 72.40% . American Maritime Officers Pension Plan (2005) 72.40%
. United Mine Workers of America 1974 Pension Plan 72.30%
. GCIU Local 119B NY Printers League Pension Fund 71.40%
. National Elevator Industry Pension 71.00%
. Western Conference of Teamsters 70.60% . Newspaper GUILD of NY the New York Times Pension Plan 70.50%

. Chicago District Council of Carpenters Pension Fund 70.10%
. District No. 9, IAM and Aerospace Workers Pension 69.70%
. Rocky Mt. UFCW Unions & Employers Pension Plan 69.50%
. Hotel/Casino - Summary 69.50%
. NECA-IBEW Pension Trust Fund 69.20%
. Central Pension Fund of the IUOE and Participating Employers 69.20%
. AFTRA Retirement Plan 68.90%
. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund of St Louis 68.60%
. MA State Carpenters Pension Fund 68.60%
. National Automatic Sprinkler Industry Pension 67.80%
. Midwest Operating Engineers Pension 67.80%
. Retail Clerks Pension Plan 67.70%
. Electrical Workers Pension Fund, Local 103, IBEW 67.50%
. Building Trades United Pension Trust Fund MIL and Vicinity 67.40%
. CWA/ITU Negotiated Pension Plan 66.80%
. UFCW Unions & Employers Midwest Pension Fund 66.70%
. Laborers Pension Fund 66.70%
. Carpenters Pension Fund of Philadelphia and Vicinity 66.40%
. UFCW International Union Pension Plan for Employees 66.40%
. Alaska Teamster-Employer Pension Plan 66.30%
. Steelworkers Pension Trust (2007) 66.20%
. Hotel Industry-ILWU Pension Plan 65.70%
. National Asbestos Workers Pension Fund 65.20%
. IUOE Stationary Engineers Local 39 Pension Plan 65.20%
. SEIU National Industry Pension Fund 65.00%
. Trucking Employees of North Jersey Welfare Fund Inc. Pension Fund 65.00%
. Massachusetts Laborers Pension Fund 64.70%
. California Ironworkers Field Pension Trust 64.50%
. Carpenters Pension Fund of Illinois 64.20%
. Automotive Machinists Pension Plan 63.80%
. NJ Carpenters Pension Fund 63.60%
. The Newspaper Guild International Pension Plan 62.80%
. Minnesota Laborers Pension Fund 62.40%
. Bakery & Confectionery Union & Industry International Pension 62.30%
. Laborers National Pension Fund 62.10%
. Operating Engineers Pension Trust 61.70%
. UFCW Unions and Food Employers Pension Plan of Central Ohio 61.30%
. UFCW Nothern California Joint Pension 61.00%
. Carpenters Pension fund of Western Pennsylvania 60.80%
. Newspaper and Mail Delivers - Publishers Pension Fund 60.50%

. Carpenter Pension Trust for Southern California 60.40%
. Sheet Metal Workers Pension Plan of S. CA, Arizona and Nevada 59.50%
. NY District Council of Carpenters Pension Plan 59.30%
. SO CA UFCW Union Joint Pension 58.40%
. National Electrical Benefit Fund 58.20%
. Boilermaker Blacksmith National Pension 58%
. GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund 57.60%
. ILWU-PMA Pension Plan 56.90%
. Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan 56.60%
. Wisconsin Carpenters Pension Fund 56.50%
. Electrical Workers Pension Trust Fund of Local Union 58 55.80%
. Automotive Mechanics Local No. 701 Union Pension Fund 55.60%
. IB of T Union Local 710 Pension 55.60%
. Michigan Laborers Pension Fund 55.30%
. PACE Industry Union-Management Pension Fund 55.20%
. Pipe Fitters Retirement Fund Local 597 55.20%
. Sheet Metal Workers Pension Plan of Northern Calif 55.10%
. Central Pennsylvania Teamsters Defined Benefit Plan 55.10%

. NY Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of NYC Pension Fund 55.10%
. Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 of Verginia Pension Fund 54.90%
. National Integrated Group Pension Plan 54.50%
. Plumbers & Pipefitters National Pension 54.50%
. Central Laborers Pension Fund 54.20%
. Iron Workers District Council of Southern Ohio & Vicinity Pension Trust 53.90%
. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund for Northern California 53.70%
. Bricklayers & Trowel Trades International Pension Fund 53.60%
. Western Pennsylvania Teamsters and Employers Pension Plan 53.10%
. Chicago Newspaper Publishers Drivers Union Pension Trust 52.90%
. OE Pension Trust Fund 52.40%
. Indiana State District Council of Laborers & Hod Carriers Pension Fund 51.70%
. NYS Teamsters Conference Pension & Retirement Fund 51.40%
. LIUNA National Industrial Pension Fund 50.30%
. Michigan Carpenters Pension Fund 50.20%
. Twin City Carpenters Pension Fund 50.20%
. Laborers Pension Trust Fund for Northern California 50.00%
. HERE Local 25 and Hotel Association of Washington, DC Pension 49.30%
. Central States SE&SW 48.50%
. Teamsters Pension Trust of Philadelphia and Vicinity 48.50%

. Operating Engineers Local 324 Pension Fund 47.30%
. Laborers District Council of W. PA Pension Fund 46.80%
. Iron Workers Local No. 25 Pension Trust Fund 46.40%
. Local 705 IB of T Pension Trust Fund 46.30%
. Building Service 32B-J Pension Fund 42.30%
. Carpenters Pension Trust Fund Detroit & Vicinity 41.40%
. New England Teamsters & Trucking Industry Pension 40.50%
. FELRA and UFCW Pension Fund 39.80%
. Local 804 I.B.T. and Local 447 IAM UPS Multi-employer Retirement Plan 39.70%
. Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund 38.00%

Ramsin / March 10, 2010 10:34 AM

So you're against pensions?

How about EFCA being a labor reform that would put the US in line with the rest of the industrialized world, which ended "at-will employment" decades ago?

Its amazing how conservative mumbo-jumbo and play-pretend has convinced working class people that nobody should be able to have good benefits and retirement security (except, of course, the wealthy).

You know lots of public employees don't get social security payments, right? So you want them eating cat food and dying in heat waves?

Jesus. Get a grip.

Ramsin / March 10, 2010 10:39 AM

Oh, and it was "union-backed politicians" that provided the bailout? Right, it wasn't Wall Street money and the millionaires and billionaires who benefit from the actual ponzi scheme that actually bankrupted the country through capital schemes that have left millions of working class Americans destitute while a handful of the wealthy and powerful get richer and richer.

It was the union-backed politicians, who couldn't even get the Democrats to pretend they were going to try to pass EFCA or reform NAFTA for more than a few weeks after Obama's inauguration. It was all them.

Stupid blind partisanship like this is what makes people despair and forget about politics.

Unions represent 7% of the workforce. They are shrinking. THeir members are constantly being forced to giveback the meager benefits they've won through collectively bargaining.

The top 1% of this country has been accruing more and more wealth over the last 30 years. This is an undeniable fact, that while productivity has gone up, wages have not; that wealth has accrued more and more to fewer and fewer people.

Guess what: it's not unions causing that. Even the wealthiest union bureaucrat doesn't making anything close to even the lowliest Goldman Sachs exec.

But, it's not high finance (read: capitalists) it's labor unions. Right.

Just Another Man / March 10, 2010 11:08 AM

You could call these funds a good benefit and retirement security only if there were properly funded.

They are not, so they cannot be described that way.

(Do you think that you'd get fair value of those assets given the huge liabilites? If so, I've got a bridge in NY you might also be interested in)

I imagine that you'll find it ok to tell the members paid into these funds to "get a grip" when they find that their retirement funds are a fraction of their expectations.

Look at how the public employee unions have responded to the austerity measures in Greece. Hasn't worked out so well, with the riots and such, and the country's economy is in shambles with no easy way out.

Its about financial responsibility and removing ponzi finance, especially when it involves public funds. Maybe if we use the word "sustainability, you'll get it.

Unlikely, given how quickly you turn into "oh, you must be against benefits for working people" and "you are a schill for the rich". Always needing a bogeyman, needing to drum up that hate.

Ramsin / March 10, 2010 2:41 PM

Not hard to turn to that given how you characterize EFCA as "coercion" following the line of the Chamber of Commerce-funded front groups, when the common-sense labor reforms in there would still make the US the hardest nation in which to join a union in the Western world.

You're accusing me of "looking for boogeymen" when you have the temerity (or lack of wit) to blame the bailout on "union-backed politicians"? You really think unions, who are suing Wall Street for mismanagement of their funds, are responsible for the bailouts?

You seem to be saying that the financial crisis and bad government policy is all the fault of the unions, wich have otherwise been wholly unable to get anything meaningful done. You've got more to rationalize than I do.

Another Man / March 10, 2010 6:20 PM

Where, exactly and specifically, do I place blame on the financial sector bailout, aka TARP, on unions? You are probably referring to my comment that unions are desperate for a government bailout, i.e. card check, gov't healthcare, bacon davis wage regulations, etc...

Its telling that you can't defend the finance scheme that is modern labor finance

I'll put it to you in simple terms, labor pensions are the budget equivalent of a baloon payment. Except where most deals involving balloon payments are structured so that the holder sells the asset before the balloon payment is incurred, our public treasury is sitting on the time bomb.

You can either act to correct it now, or really screw things up by allowing the situation to continue.

marlana obryant / October 26, 2015 8:59 PM

I love it! Excellent article. I think it could also be useful for everyone to know how and where to fill a form online. So here is my saving grace: PDFfiller helped me to fill out the 2009 IRA 2312 and and esign them. Just try it , you'll love it.

GB store


Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

Special Series

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project
GB store

About Mechanics

Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Mike Ewing,
Mechanics staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15