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More Money Needed For Pensions

Illinois residents should be ready to pay an additional $886 million in general funds in the next fiscal year (which starts July 1st) towards pensions for state employees, teachers, staff at state universities, judges, and legislators. That’s the total change from this fiscal year (FY17) after the state pension systems[1] set their contribution amounts and the State Auditor (a firm hired by the Auditor General) reviewed them. The state contributions to the pension systems will total $8.9 billion in FY18 with approximately $7.9 billion coming out of the general revenue funds.

The state operates under a 1995 law requiring the pension systems to have assets at 90% of their projected liabilities in FY45. Currently, the state’s pension systems collectively only have assets for 37.6% of their liabilities.

When the state adopted the 1995 law, it back-loaded the payments with contributions dramatically increasing in FY12. The systems also adopted lower projected rates of returns on existing pension system assets in recent years. The result of the reduced rates is an increase in the unfunded liabilities of the systems and therefore a need to increase the required contribution amounts. Other revised demographic changes, such as mortality rates, have impacted the projected liability and estimated contribution amounts.


Historical Change in Investment Rate Assumptions
System Prior to FY 10 FY10 FY12 FY14 FY16
TRS 8.50% 8.50% 8.00% 7.50% 7.00%
SERS 8.50% 7.75% 7.75% 7.25% 7.00%
SURS 8.50% 7.75% 7.75% 7.25% 7.25%
JRS 8.00% 7.00% 7.00% 7.00% 6.75%
GARS 8.00% 7.00% 7.00% 7.00% 6.75%
Note: The years associated with investment rate assumption changes reflect the actuarial valuation year and not the fiscal year in which the State contribution was calculated using the new rate.
Source:  Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability


The total unfunded liability for the pension systems (to get to the required FY45 level) stands at just under $130 million dollars. To put the FY18 general revenue funds contribution amount of $7.9 billion into perspective, the total General Revenue Funds operating budget in FY15 (the last time there was a complete state budget) totaled just over $31 billion. So, the contribution represents more than 25% of the last complete state budget. The state could change the existing law and stretch out the time frame for meeting 90% of system liabilities. However, that likely would mean setting aside even more money for pension system contributions.

The increased pension payments only add more pressure to the state’s finances which are already stressed by the failure of lawmakers to pass a complete state budget and expenditures that exceed incoming revenue by billions of dollars (resulting in the state currently having a backlog of bills totaling more than $11 billion). The result has been cuts to vital human services and higher education institutions with more cuts likely absent any further action.

The only viable solution is for the state to bring in new revenue. Without new revenue, the state is looking at deeper and deeper cuts that will undermine Illinois’s economy and quality of life.

[1] Teachers’ Retirement System, State University Retirement System, State Employees Retirement System, General Assembly Retirement System, and Judicial Retirement System

Budget Impasse Means More Youth at Risk of Incarceration, More Back Bills

Youth prevention and alternative to incarceration programs make communities safer, improve a youth’s chances for success, and save the state unnecessary incarceration costs. Unfortunately, as this Fiscal Policy Center report shows, the damage the ongoing budget crisis has done to two community-based prevention and rehabilitation programs for youth—Redeploy Illinois and Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Programs (CCBYS) is putting more youth at risk of incarceration.

Both Redeploy and CCBYS programs prevent or divert thousands of youth away from incarceration and the child welfare system. Yet, the “stopgap” budget adopted by the state earlier this year cut spending levels by about one-third from previous spending levels. All spending on Redeploy Illinois and CCBYS ceases beginning January 1, 2017 when the stopgap measure expires. Without new revenue, any continuation of Redeploy Illinois and CCBYS would only add to Illinois’ growing backlog of bills (currently at $10.4 billion).

When it is fully funded, Redeploy Illinois saves money and keeps children out of prison. Illinois counties participating in Redeploy Illinois have reduced the number of youths going to prison by 58 percent, or nearly 1,800 youth, saving the state an estimated $88 million in incarceration costs between 2005 and 2014.

Similarly, with a fully-funded CCBYS program, youth receive crisis intervention services designed to prevent entry to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. In the last year, without funding, more than half of CCBYS providers have reduced services, with roughly 7,000 youth put on wait lists, not receiving the services they need, or needing to travel far from home to get help.

Illinois Must End the Budget Crisis and Target Investments for Low-income Parents of Color and their Children

With only three scheduled veto session days remaining and money from the state’s “stopgap” budget set to run out at the end of December, Illinois lawmakers need to act urgently to restore critical programs that strengthen young parents and their children. This week, Voices for Illinois Children released a new report highlighting the damage the ongoing budget crisis is having on the economic security of Illinois’ children and families and makes recommendations to raise the necessary revenue to balance the budget and fully restore programs that help communities thrive.

The first five years of life are the most important period of growth for a child, but persistent poverty can harm young children and set back their likelihood of success in school and in their adult life. With one in 10 Illinois children under six living in deep poverty (50 percent of the poverty level, or roughly $12,125 for a family of four) and four in ten living below twice the poverty rate ($48,500 for a family of four), the urgency of investing in programs that counter the negative effects of poverty are paramount.

The current “stopgap” budget fails to provide adequate funding for many important programs that support young parents to pursue their education and provide their children with high-quality childcare and programs that support their well-being. As a result, several programs, including the Monetary Award Program which provides grants for low-income college students, Adult Basic Education and Literacy programs, and home visiting programs that support child well-being will not have any funding available at the start of 2017.

To fully support young parents in Illinois and create opportunities for their children and families, Illinois must:

• Restore eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program to 185 percent of the poverty level and to parents pursuing a college degree full time.
• Restore state investments in higher education and MAP grants.
• Target funding to areas that improve educational outcomes for low-income parents of color.
• Restore Safe from the Start funding and increase investments in children’s mental health.

Communities of Color Continue to Struggle in Illinois

Last week’s new Census data show that in Illinois and across the country, income and health insurance coverage increased while poverty went down between 2014 and 2015. Although this is positive news overall, Illinois’ poverty rates remain higher and incomes lower than before the Great Recession, and African Americans and Latinos continue to have lower incomes and have a harder time making ends meet than whites.

The success of Illinois depends on our state’s commitment to create jobs that pay workers enough to make ends meet, provide quality childcare for young children so parents can work, and the ability for all Illinoisans to afford to see a doctor and stay healthy—all of these things build economic security and thriving communities.

Below are key highlights of the report that show that although there’s much to celebrate in terms of increasing incomes and declining poverty, we must do more to address the continuing gaps for people of color in Illinois.

Highlights from the 2015 American Community Survey data release include:

  • The Illinois poverty rate was 13.6 percent in 2015 down from 14.4 percent in 2014. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2015 was less than $24,250.
  • Even with slight improvements in the rate, there were more than 7 million Illinoisans living in poverty, an increase of more than 207,000 people in poverty since 2007.
  • Median household income rose from $57,475 in 2014 to $59,588 in 2015, a 3.7 percent increase.
  • While the number and percentage of Illinoisans living in deep poverty—below 50 percent of the federal poverty level— dropped between 2014 and 2015, there were still more than 784,000 Illinoisans (6.2%) living under such dire circumstances. In 2015, a family of four living below 50 percent of the federal poverty level lived on an income of less than $12,125 in 2015.
  • Illinois was among eight states with an increase in income inequality – the gap between the rich and everyone else – between 2014 and 2015.

 Children Most Likely to be Poor

  • Nearly 559,000 children still lived in poverty in 2015 despite a slight improvement in the child poverty rate from 20.2 percent in 2014 to 19.1 percent in 2015.
  • Children of color have higher poverty rates compared to white children. African American children are four times more likely to be poor than white children (39.0% vs. 10.0%).
  • Latino children are nearly three times more likely to be poor compared to white children (27.2%).
  • More than 246,000 (8.4%) of Illinois children were living in deep poverty in 2015. Although this is down slightly from 9 percent in 2014, the rate and number of children living in deep poverty is higher than before the recession.

Slower Improvements in Poverty and Income for African American and Latino households

Although poverty went down and income went up in Illinois between 2014 and 2015, the gains were not as strong for people of color, including African Americans and Latinos. And household incomes for people of color in Illinois are still well below pre-recession levels. Overall, African American household income is half that of white household income.

  • Median Household Income: African American and Latino households continued to earn considerably less than white and Asian households. African American median household income was $33,950 in 2015. It was $49,122 for Latino households, $66,237 for white households, and $80,076 for Asian households. African American and Latino household income increases were much lower than the state average.
  • After adjusting for inflation, African American household incomes declined by $4,894 or 12.6 percent from 2007, while Latino household incomes declined by $5,015 or 9.3 percent. Overall, Illinois incomes were down $2,283 or 3.7 percent in 2015 compared to 2007, showing that African Americans and Latinos were disproportionately harmed by the Great Recession.
  • Race and Poverty: African Americans are three times more likely to be poor compared to whites, with a poverty rate of 28.2 percent compared to just 8.7 percent for whites. Latinos are more than twice as likely to be poor compared to whites. The Latino poverty rate was 19.4 percent.

Low Educational Attainment Closely Tied to Poverty

Educational attainment continues to be an important factor in whether a person is living in poverty. Illinoisans without out a high school degree were twice as likely (23.4%) to live in poverty compared to just 10.1 percent of Illinoisans’ with some college and 4.1 percent of college graduates.

One in Six Illinoisans Struggle with Low Incomes

Many Illinoisans living above the federal poverty level are still struggling. Economic security, defined as the ability to afford basic needs, save for a rainy day, and plan for the future, is out of reach for many Illinoisans. Estimates of what it takes to be financially secure are usually at least twice the poverty line or 200 percent of the federal poverty level—$23,540 annual income for one person or $48,500 for a family of four. In 2015, one in six (16.7%) Illinoisans made less than this.

Illinois Can Do Better by Investing in Youth

Incarceration Costs 29X More Than Redeploy-webThere’s a way that Illinois can do more to make sure young people thrive and our communities are safer.

As the Fiscal Policy Center report, Invest in Youth — Not Prisons, makes clear, Illinois would help young people and save money by directing state resources toward community-based programs instead of incarcerating young offenders.

Each year Illinois spends heavily to incarcerate youth who come into conflict with the law. But young people who are placed in prison often don’t do well and end up re-offending after they’re released. Fortunately, we can change the course for thousands of Illinois youth by investing in communities, schools, and their future, instead of continuing to pour millions of taxpayer dollars into an ineffective, punitive system.

Although Illinois has been moving in the right direction by reducing the use of youth incarceration, the state has continued to fund a costly juvenile justice system at the expense of public safety, draining resources needed for important investments in prevention and rehabilitation services.

It costs 29 times more money to incarcerate one youth at Illinois Youth Centers (IYC)—youth prisons operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ)—than it does to divert one youth to a community-based alternative program. In fiscal year 2016, the average cost to incarcerate one youth was about $172,000 annually, compared to an average of just $6,000 per youth through Redeploy Illinois.

Redeploy Illinois—a community-based alternative to incarceration— and many of the programs intended to improve public safety and help rehabilitate youth have gone without funding, leaving more young people at risk of entering the juvenile justice system which hurts families and drives up state costs.

Even with the passage of the “stopgap” budget at the end of June, uncertainty remains for many programs that have scaled back while others have closed altogether.

Illinois can do better to improve the lives of young people and keep our neighborhoods safe by investing in alternative programs in communities that need it the most. Black youth are incarcerated at far higher rates in Illinois than white youth. And the disparities have grown despite reduced incarceration in Illinois. Although black youth represent 17 percent of Illinois’ youth population (ages 12-17), in 2015 they made up 69 percent of youth incarcerated at youth prisons across the state, up from 56 percent in 2006. White youth make up 54 percent of the Illinois youth population (ages 12-17), but only 19 percent of all youth incarcerated, down from a third in 2006.

These disparities show that Illinois needs to do more to make sure community-based programs benefit all justice-involved youth, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Illinois must make sure community-based alternative approaches reach black and Hispanic youth, especially in areas of concentrated poverty where scarce resources exist. Investment in these communities along with a sustained effort to promote cultural and linguistic competency in programming are the first steps to promote success for youth of color.

If Illinois moved away from spending on large prisons that are harmful and ineffective, the state’s juvenile justice system could be transformed—giving youth a better chance of leading productive lives and helping communities to thrive. Here are the steps that need to be taken for that to happen:

  • Invest in community-based responses to juvenile delinquency, not prisons.
  • Fully support and expand Redeploy Illinois.
  • Create a state youth investment fund so money saved from reducing incarceration goes toward community-based approaches.
  • Support and improve educational and employment opportunities for youth who are disconnected from both school and work.

For more information about the high cost of incarceration and FPC’s recommendations for improving the lives of Illinois’ youth, please see our report.

Tax them and they will…stay

When Illinois temporarily increased its state personal income tax rate in 2011, an interesting thing happened. The number of households making more than $500,000 went up.

Yet, don’t we keep hearing that when faced with higher taxes wealthy people flee a state?

Yes, but it seems it doesn’t actually happen.

Illinois Department of Revenue data shows that in tax year 2010 the number of Illinois taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of more than $500,000 was 39,437. In tax year 2014 (after the income tax rate went up to 5 percent from 3 percent), the number of filers in that bracket stood at 54,827. That’s a 39 percent increase.

The reality, across the nation, is that when faced with higher taxes millionaires are more likely than non-millionaires to stay. It’s a conclusion borne out in a recent study that looked at almost 70 million tax records of households across the U.S. from 1999 to 2011.

Among the most interesting findings is that some millionaires leave their homes to go to Florida, which has no income tax, but movement to other non-income tax states such as Texas is far less frequent. This suggests there may be non-tax reasons for moving to Florida. (Perhaps, it’s the weather?)

There are several reasons why millionaires appear less likely to move than people with lower income. First, nearly all millionaires are married (90% versus 58% of the general population). In general, single people are twice as likely to move as married people. Second, business owners tend to move less than non-business owners because their sales and profits are often tied to a particular local or regional customer base, and there are almost six times as many business owners among millionaires as in the general population.

So it really wasn’t as surprising as people might have thought when the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a recent article with the headline, “There’s no evidence that ultra-rich are fleeing Minnesota.” The newspaper found that the number of income tax returns with income over $1 million grew by 15.3 percent after a 2013 income tax increase.

In a 2014 paper, Michael Mazerov at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that of seven other economic studies published on state taxes and migration since 2000, six concluded taxes do not drive interstate moves.

Moreover, tax cuts might well foster departures to other states. As Mazerov notes, if deep cuts result in “significant deterioration in education, public safety, parks, roads, and other critical services and infrastructure, these states will render themselves less — not more desirable places to live and raise a family.”

An important lesson that Illinois can take from the latest study and Minnesota’s experience is that Illinois has substantial room to raise tax rates without risking that more than a negligible number of high-income households will pack their bags. The top 1% of taxpayers in Illinois — those making $500,000 or more a year — pay only 4.6 percent of their income in state and local taxes; in Minnesota, the top 1 percent pays 7.5 percent in state and local taxes.

Effective tax rate

Furthermore, while Illinois has been cutting a range of critical services after the 25-percent income tax cut in 2015 and the related failure to enact a state budget, Minnesota has gone in the opposite direction, raising taxes to increase public investment in schools, transportation and other areas that help communities thrive.

Posted to Blog, Budget, Revenue, Taxes

Kids Count Report: Illinois Kids Making Progress, But Too Many Face Challenges

Prior to the state budget crisis, Illinois kids were improving in important indicators of child well-being, including education and health, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT® Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. However, one in five children in Illinois continued to live in poverty in 2014, and the number of kids growing up in high poverty neighborhoods has increased since 2008.

Illinois is ranked 21st nationally on indicators of child well-being, down from 20th place in 2015.2016KCDB_cover_440px

This year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book focuses on trends over the last six years (roughly 2008-2014). Other key findings for Illinois include:

Struggling Households

  • 12 percent of children (362,000) are living in high-poverty neighborhoods today, up from 10 percent in 2008.
  • Nationally, African-American children were twice as likely as the average child to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. In Illinois, African-American children are more than three times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods: 44 percent, compared to 12 percent across all race groups.
  • 29 percent (858,000) of kids live in households where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment, up from 26 percent in 2008.

Improvements in Health

  • Fewer Illinois teens are abusing alcohol, and mortality rates of children and teens have been declining.
  • Illinois is ranked third for the lowest number of uninsured kids among states, cutting the uninsured rate by 50 percent since 2008.

Improvements in Education  

  • The number of teens not engaged in school or work declined, and more of our kids are graduating from high school on time.
  • In 2013, 83 percent of Illinois high school students graduated on time, up from 80 percent in 2008.

The continued state financial crisis, however, threatens these improvements. Without funding, key investments in children’s well-being have been gutted, putting more kids at risk of falling behind in education, health, and their overall economic security. Illinois can change the current downward trajectory of our state by enacting a budget that raises the revenue necessary to invest in our kids’ long-term success.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book with state-by-state rankings and supplemental data can be viewed at www.aecf.org/2016db. For Illinois Fact Sheet Click Here.


Posted to Blog

Governor Can Give Lifeline to Services by Signing SB 2038

Nearly a month after receiving a bill providing more than $700 million for health and human services unfunded in the current fiscal year, Governor Rauner has yet to sign SB 2038. While not a permanent solution, the measure provides immediate relief for human service and healthcare providers that have managed to keep the doors open in spite of not receiving payment from the state on signed contracts.

The bill funds the services with money in dedicated state accounts established for specific purposes. The majority of dollars (nearly $462 million) is from the Commitment to Human Services Fund, which receives 1/30 of net personal income tax revenue. However, lacking authorization, this money simply sits idle. Governor Rauner can provide that authorization by signing SB 2038.

The General Assembly passed SB 2038 back in May without a single “no” vote.  It is not a permanent solution, but vital in the short term. Long term the state needs additional and sustainable revenue to keep providing these important services to Illinois residents.

Failure to Enact Fully-Funded Budget Results in Downgrades

In yet another blow to Illinois, Moody’s and S&P have both lowered their Illinois general obligation bond rating by one level – with Moody’s ranking just two steps above “junk bond” status.

Moody’s notes that the downgrade reflects a “continuing budget imbalance due to political gridlock that for more than one year has kept Illinois from addressing revenue lost due to income tax cuts that took effect in January 2015.”

Indeed, as the Voices’ Fiscal Policy Center pointed out just yesterday, inadequate resources after last year’s income tax cut is the main driver of Illinois’ current financial crisis. Just to provide state services at Fiscal Year 2015 levels, the FPC estimates Illinois needs $7.1 billion in new revenue.

Lawmakers and Governor Rauner need to come together to enact a budget and billions of dollars in new revenue. Failure to act will only increase the state’s debt, lead to more devastating cuts, and result in further downgrades.

Posted to Blog, Budget, Revenue, Taxes

Illinois Financial Crisis: Eight Things You Need to Know

The legislative session is over, and Illinois is about to enter its second year without a budget. Where does all of this leave the state?

Voices for Illinois Children’s Fiscal Policy Center offers eight takeaways to put matters in perspective and lead the way to a solution that gets Illinois back to making the public investments needed for the state to flourish.

  1. Illinois is Dismantling the Foundations of a Prosperous, Compassionate State. As the Fiscal Policy Center has chronicled, the lack of a fully-funded state budget is devastating for communities across Illinois. Our higher education system, an essential part of creating a strong workforce, is falling apart. Service providers are shutting down, and our safety net is collapsing. Survivors of sexual assault can’t get needed counseling; homeless youth are kept out of shelters; and the families of children with autism spectrum disorder are denied services that help their children thrive.
  1. Public Safety is Jeopardized. Violence in our communities has many causes and requires many solutions. Now, just when Illinois needs a coordinated, public health-centered approach to violence that plagues many communities, we are going in the opposite direction. Illinois has cut mental health and substance abuse treatment, after-school opportunities for youth, and programs like Redeploy that rehabilitate youth in their communities.
  1. Lack of Resources Drives This Crisis. Political posturing aside, the real problem is Illinois doesn’t have the money it takes to meet public needs. Illinois could be a thriving state, with opportunity for all, if it could make the public investments that have been impossible since the 2015 income tax cut. To return to the level of services of the 2015 fiscal year — the last year with a full budget — without adding additional debt, Illinois needs more than $7 billion in new revenue a year. Our state is way beyond the point where its financial problems can be solved by further cutting spending.
  1. Delay In Raising Revenue Means More Debt. Since the enormous income tax cuts of 2015, Illinois is racking up debt even with deep cuts in spending. This is because the state must still pay for a variety of things mandated under state and federal law. Every day lawmakers and Governor Rauner fail to agree on raising critically needed revenue, Illinois’ finances worsen. “Solutions” that fail to raise revenue aren’t really solutions at all. (Note: If public schools are simply not funded at all next school year, that would “improve” the budget picture on paper, but would have devastating effects.)
  1. Debt = Less Investment in Future. Increasing the state’s backlog of unpaid bills not only means unfair payment delays to people providing goods and services. It also restricts what Illinois can do in the future. Debt must be repaid using future revenue, taking resources away from schools, transportation, public safety, and other building blocks of broad prosperity.
  1. Without More Revenue, Increases to PreK-12 Education Funding Crowds Out Other Investments. Investments in preschool and K-12 education are some of the most important investments that our state can make. We absolutely need to be increasing these investments to create opportunities for our children and create a brighter future for Illinois. Without new revenue, however, the large increases to PreK-12 education that Democratic legislative leaders and Governor Rauner want mean that the state will further increase its debt (which will reduce future services and investments) and be forced to cut a range of services for children and families that support children’s healthy growth and development. We cannot continue to pit education against human services — children and families need both to succeed.
  1. Short-Term “Emergency” Budget is Not a Solution. At best, a six-month emergency budget to get elected officials past the November elections only slows the deterioration of our higher education system and our social safety net. Much of any emergency six-month budget would likely just fill existing holes and would not sustain critical services into next fiscal year. For example, under the outlines of the Governor’s emergency six-month budget plan, Illinois would provide no tuition-assistance (MAP grants) this fall for college students from families struggling to make ends meet.
  1. Governor Rauner Has Bill on His Desk that is Part of His Desired Six-Month Budget. The legislature passed by large bipartisan majorities Senate Bill 2038 to provide urgently needed funds to service providers owed $700 million by the state. The money sits in state accounts, unable to be spent until Governor Rauner signs the legislation he received nearly three weeks ago. More than 220 organizations, including Voices, have urged him to sign this bill.

To avoid further damage to our state, lawmakers and Governor Rauner must come together to enact a fully funded budget that raises billions of dollars in new revenue to support critical services and public investment in Illinois’ future. Anything else falls far short of strengthening our state.