Absolutely stunning news from the world of public finance.
Illinois has a responsible budget. For the most part.
The news came from Fitch Ratings, the third of the big credit rating agencies that pass judgments on public finance. In a report last week, the agency keep the state’s bond rating at just above junk status, but it raised its outlook of the state’s finances from negative to stable. Hoo, hah.
But wait, there’s more. You remember that big surge in revenue the state experienced in April that resulted in Gov. J.B. PRITZKER dropping his plan to cut pension payments in the new budget? Fitch said that bundle of cash made crafting a budget easier and allowed the state to “reduce (but not eliminate) reliance on non-recurring measures.” It said the state now has a “plausible and achievable 2020 budget plan …”
It is unclear when anyone used words like “plausible and achievable” to describe an Illinois state budget.
Alas, this is still Illinois, so you knew there has to be a “but” in there someplace — and there is. Fitch said the gains are “somewhat tenuous and their sustainability hinges on the state’s actions over the next several years …” A big part of that hinges on the graduated income tax that will be on the ballot next year. That idea is going to be subject to continued attacks by opponents for more than a year, so its approval is anything but certain.
Outside of that, Fitch is saying Illinois’ future depends on lawmakers passing responsible budgets for years to come. We’ll have to see if they are up to the task.
* Pritzker signed a bill into law last week that bans employers from asking job applicants about their salary history.
It was the third time around for the proposal. Lawmakers passed it twice when former Gov. BRUCE RAUNER was still in office and he vetoed it twice. Rauner wanted some business friendly changes made that proponents said would water it down.
Supporters of the bill said it is necessary in order to help achieve pay equity for women. Women have traditionally been paid less than males for similar work. The idea was that practice would continue if a prospective employer could ask about a person’s salary history and base the pay for a new job on that.
Pritzker signed the bill at a ceremony in Chicago. He did it just a short distance from the U.S. Soccer Federation office. That would be the same outfit that’s been locked in a dispute with the women’s national soccer team — the one that just won its fourth world championship — over the women’s team making less money than the men’s far less successful team.
* Pritzker wasted no time in trying to determine what the state could do to close that college aid loophole.
The nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica reported last week that any number of wealthy families from the Chicago suburbs were exploiting what was described as a loophole in college aid programs to have taxpayer-funded aid programs pay for their kids’ college education.
They would turn over custody of their kids to a relative or friend, which allowed the kid to declare his or her financial independence. That, in turn, allowed them to qualify for financial aid programs intended for kids who are truly financially needy.
Pritzker didn’t refer to the activity as exploiting the loophole. He called it fraud and said he’s directed his staff to investigate.
What galls people is that thousands of financially needy kids qualify for assistance but can’t get it because the state hasn’t allocated enough money to take care of them all, even before wealthy kids took some of it.
* ”Shame on them. Shame on them.” Pritzker commenting on the people crawling through that college aid loophole.
Contact Doug Finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.
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August 3, 2019 at 05:10PM