By: Mark Glennon*

Governor J.B. Pritzker’s annual Budget Address is Wednesday. Here are certain things we expect to hear that you should be skeptical about or reject outright:

Asset transfers to pensions. Pritzker’s pension task force has been working primarily on the concept of transferring public assets to pensions to address the pension crisis. We may get the first specifics on Wednesday. The Tollway and the Thompson Center have been mentioned as possible assets to transfer. Asset transfers, however, solve nothing, being mere gifts to pensions, moving assets from one hand to another. They rely primarily on an accounting gimmick, which we explained in detail last year.

Millions not billions. Pritzker knows what all politicians know  — that the public doesn’t appreciate the difference between a million and a billion. He kicked off budget season last week with a press conference announcing $225 million of savings from new efficiencies. Sounds like a lot but that’s in fact just one-half of one percent of the state’s budget. Every bit of those savings are welcome and some of those claims may be valid, but remember that our problems are in the hundreds of billions.

By the way, part of those claimed savings result, Pritzker said, from “working with Comptroller Mendoza’s office to pay overdue medical bills.” What does that even mean? Maybe he is referring to the program using idle money held by the Treasurer to pay down bill backlogs thereby cutting late fees.

Governor Pritzker delivering last year’s budget address

If so, those savings resulted directly from Wirepoints’ work. It was because we pounded the table about proper use of Treasurer money that the program was proposed. You’re welcome, Governor.

The “Fair Tax” cornucopia. Pritzker undoubtedly will claim he needs the progressive income tax increase to truly address our budget issues. He will say or imply, again, that property tax relief, pension funding, core human services, education and more depend on it. But his own estimates claim just $3.5 billion of new revenue which, as we’ve documented often, won’t come remotely close to covering promises made, especially on property tax relief.

Exaggerated savings from pension buyouts and consolidation. Pritzker’s office still hasn’t produced the study he said he has supporting the savings from buyouts that he claimed, despite our December FOIA request. Regarding pension consolidation, despite Pritzker’s claim that the recent reform was “monumental,” less than five percent of state pensions were covered by that action.

“It’s Rauner’s fault.” That’s a persistent message from Pritzker but it’s really just a device to avoid addressing structural fiscal problems that long preceded Bruce Rauner’s administration.

Nothing. On real pension reform, that is. Pritzker has categorically ruled out real pension reform by opposing the state constitutional amendment we need for it. Former Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger summarized so much yesterday with this simple post on Twitter: “No amount of taxes can solve IL’s financial problems without pension reform.”

The budget is balanced. Pritzker and legislators from both parties undoubtedly will say that again, but we will never stop reminding our readers that annual government budgets are nearly meaningless. Claims of “balance” hide true, annual losses that have averaged $1.1 million per hour since 2001. We explained why in plain English again last week.

We carnival barkers. In his State of the State speech last month, Pritzker said this, clearly meaning to include us at Wirepoints. Maybe we’ll hear it again:

Those who would shout doom and gloom might be loud – using social media bots and paid hacks to advance their false notions – but they are not many.  You see, we’re wresting the public conversation in Illinois back from people concerned with one thing and one thing only — predicting total disaster, spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it, and then doing everything in their power to make it happen. I’m here to tell the carnival barkers, the doomsayers, the paid professional critics – the State of our State is growing stronger each day.

We’ll let you judge that one for yourselves.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

 

8 Comments
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Illinois Entrepreneur
8 months ago

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood, waiting for winter to end, but…does anyone care anymore? This constant game of democrats telling us not to believe “our lying eyes” has gotten me beat down. I’ll never believe them, and I’ll never believe a word that a democrat in this state says. It’s all just propaganda. I only distrust Illinois Republicans slightly less. Mark and Ted do great work exposing these frauds, but to what ends? This must be how people felt in the old USSR. We cannot beat it, so you just live your life and wait for something to… Read more »

Fed up neighbor
8 months ago

It’s not your mood, it’s your heart and mind speaking the truth. Myself and my wife feel the same way, beaten for now.

DantheMan
8 months ago

Nice summation and exactly why I and others left the state. Feel free to join us… and that includes you too Mark, Ted, and John. You don’t need to live in Illinois to maintain a web site about the state. In fact, it would set a good example.

Mike Mike
8 months ago

Transferring a government building, tollway, etc. to a pension helps fund a pension fund if the asset is at some point sold and the cash placed into the pension fund. Since there are no short terms plans to sell the tollway, is the tollway appreciation predicted to match the discount rate (pension interest rate)? If not, the shortfall compounds over time, worsening the unfunded pension liability. Transferring government buildings, the tollway, etc. to a pension fund is a desperate measure. If he tollway were sold and more money is need, what’s next and where does it end? Apparently it doesn’t… Read more »

nixit
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Mike

The irony would be every toll hike would be a decision of the pension board.

Freddy
8 months ago

Asset transfers are nothing new. The state and local taxing bodies have been transferring assets from my property and wallet for decades now into someone else’s wallet. This is how the proposed transfers may work. The state hands over the Thompson Center or Midway to the pension fund then a few years later the fund will sell back those assets at an artificially inflated price to the state all with taxpayer money. Win Win for the state and pension funds. Lose Lose for taxpayers. Always!!

Spike
8 months ago

An easy way to explain the difference between a million and a billion:
1 million seconds = 11 days (about)
1 billion seconds = 31.5 years (about)