Eye On Illinois: State’s 5 public pension funds struggled in fiscal ‘22

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Would you like the good news or the bad?

When it comes to discussing Illinois’ unfunded pension liability, the question is less “good or bad” and more “how bad is it?”

Last week the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability said the state’s total liability across five funds increased 7.5% in fiscal 2022. Could be worse. In raw numbers, the increase amounts to $9.8 billion. Not great.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

The situation’s severity depends on perspective. The total of $139.7 billion of unfunded liability – a number based on actuarial projections, not a hard debt accruing interest – is still down from a record high of $144.2 billion on June 30, 2020. This repeats the cycle of a drop from 2016 to 2017 followed by an increase in 2018.

Teachers’ Retirement System, the largest of the five funds, said it lost just 1.2% of its market value, according to Capitol News Illinois, and claimed the median return rate among all large pension systems last year was a 7.5% drop. If not doing as poorly as others is considered a win, chalk one up for the other four: State University Retirement System which lost 1.4%, while the State Employee, Judicial and General Assembly retirement systems all lost more than 6%.

For a remarkably deep dive – including some optimism – the 24-page monthly briefing is available at tinyurl.com/2022pension. Closer to the surface is hoping lawmakers continue meeting or exceeding statutory contributions and working to eliminate abuses that potentially rob honest workers of sufficient retirement income.

THE FINAL COUNT: Last week the State Board of Elections released the official canvass for the 2022 general election. Visit elections.il.gov then look for the publications tab to download the 221-page PDF. Big-picture takeaways include 4,142,642 ballots cast, down more than 491,000 from 2018. Expressed as a percentage, turnout dropped from 57% to 51%, still better than the 49% in 2014.

It’s also worth noting how people voted. ISBE estimates 39% of ballots were cast before Nov. 8 and said almost 18% of voters used the mail-in process while 21% voted in person at early voting sites. Almost 34% of 2018 voters cast advance ballots, but the breakdown was much different: 24.6% cast in-person early ballots and 9.2% voted by mail.

ON THIS DAY: If Neil Armstrong is the alpha, Chicago native Gene Cernan is the omega – for now, at least. Fifty years ago today, Cernan, who graduated from Maywood’s Proviso Township High School in 1952, became the final person to re-enter the Apollo Lunar Module from the surface of the moon. Triton College in River Grove is home to the Cernan Earth And Space Center, which is hosting an Apollo 17 anniversary celebration through April 8. For information, visit triton.edu/apollo17.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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December 14, 2022 at 05:10AM

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