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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A major credit-rating house has taken a more positive outlook on Illinois debt than it has in years after last week's pension-reform vote.

Standard & Poor's affirmed its A- rating on state debt backed by general tax revenue Tuesday but revised its outlook from "negative" to "developing."

The ratings agency says "developing" means the rating could be raised or lowered in the next two years. Analyst Robin Prunty says the change is positive but risk remains because workers unions will likely sue over the pension law Gov. Pat Quinn signed Thursday.

The law reduces state workers' contributions to pensions but cuts their benefits in a 30-year plan to erase a $100 billion retirement-account deficit.

Quinn promised in a statement it would be the "first of many positive developments" for Illinois.

 

Published in Local News

   Illinois Governor Pat Quinn says the state will build or rehabilitate nearly 1,500 affordable housing units statewide.

   The Chicago Democrat said in a statement yesterday the apartments will ensure working families, seniors and people with disabilities have quality, affordable housing.

   The work will be financed through a federal housing tax credit and the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Preservation Now program.

   Residents must earn at or below 60 percent of the area median income to qualify for the units. That's about $35,000 in the Chicago area.

   In Edwardsville, an existing independent living development serving seniors and people with disabilities will be rehabilitated, and a new wing built, creating and preserving 70 affordable apartments.  

   In Aurora, the state plans to acquire and rehabilitate 40 vacant single-family homes. In Chicago, a 106-unit development for seniors will be built on the site of an abandoned building and unused tennis courts.

   Units also are planned for the Bloomington-Normal area, Galesburg, Marion and Springfield.

 
Published in Local News
Thursday, 05 December 2013 15:19

Illinois lawmakers do not pass tax incentives

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois has taken a giant step toward fixing its biggest financial problem by approving a major pension overhaul this week. But lawmakers' inaction on tax incentives aimed at keeping companies in Illinois has triggered new concerns about the state's business climate.

The Senate and a House committee considered legislation giving tax breaks to Archer Daniels Midland Company, chemical distributor Univar and newly-merged OfficeMax and Office Depot. But the House adjourned after the pension vote, essentially pushing the issue into 2014.

The slow action, at least in the business world, could mean other states with interest in taking Illinois jobs have more of a chance to swoop in.

Still, lawmakers say they had no other choice. Their first priority was approving a plan aimed at fixing Illinois' $100 billion pension crisis.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - With the fight over solving Illinois' worst-in-the-nation pension shortfall moving to the courts, the state faces a grim possibility: The plan could be tossed, and Illinois could wind up in an even deeper fiscal hole.

Lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that they say eliminates the $100 billion unfunded pension liability, largely by cutting benefits.

Labor unions say it's unconstitutional and plan to sue once Gov. Pat Quinn signs it.

Court rulings on similar cases elsewhere have varied.

A bankruptcy judge in Detroit said Tuesday that city pensions can be cut.

But in Arizona a court said asking employees to contribute more to their retirement was illegal and made the state repay workers, with interest.

Experts say that could happen in Illinois, which has some of the country's stronger pension protections.

 
Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says the people of Illinois have won after lawmakers approved a major overhaul aimed at solving the state's $100 billion pension crisis.

   In a Tuesday statement, Quinn calls it "landmark legislation" that will ensure retirement security.

   The Chicago Democrat has made pension reform a top priority for two years, but efforts had been unsuccessfully including previous special sessions and his social media campaign. More recently, Quinn had refused to take a paycheck until lawmakers came up with a comprehensive solution.

   The Illinois House and Senate approved a bill that's estimated to save roughly $160 billion over the next three decades.

   However, unions were opposed to the measure, calling it unfair and questioning its legality.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' House Speaker told a bipartisan legislative committee that the state's pension systems are "just too rich" to be afforded in the future.

Madigan is a Chicago Democrat and the state's longest-serving House Speaker. He says Tuesday that a $160 billion reform proposal was designed to keep long-term low-income workers in mind.

He called the plan a balanced approach, "not just a reduction in benefits."

Leaders announced the compromise last week. A vote is expected Tuesday afternoon.

The proposal pushes back workers' retirement age on a sliding scale, has a funding guarantee, adds a 401(k)-style option and reduces employee contributions.

It'd also replace the current 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. Retirees would continue to receive that rate up to a certain amount of annuity payments, based on years of employment.

 
Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Public employees could see significant reductions in long-term retirement income under a proposed bill that Illinois legislative leaders are pushing as a way to solve the worst-in-the-nation pension crisis. One of the biggest cuts would come from a change in annual cost-of-living adjustments. The proposal would change the COLA increase from the current rate of 3 percent compounded annually on the full annuity benefit. Retirees instead would receive increases at that rate only up to a certain amount of annuity benefit.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has developed a formula to calculate estimated changes in retirement income over the years if the bill passes, based on the best information available right now, pension specialist Amanda Kass said.

Here are three scenarios:

------------

Employee 1: Retired teacher, 30 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $67,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $120,680 a year under the current pension system; $91,000 under the proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $282,632

------------

Employee 2: Retired Department of Children and Family Services caseworker, 20 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $50,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $90,306 under current system; $63,000 under proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $261,215

------------

Employee 3: Central Management Services data processor, age 43, planning to retire in 15 years with 30 years of service

Initial annual benefit: $72,000

Annual pension benefit after 20 years of retirement: $130,000 under current system; $85,400 under proposed changes

Cumulative 20-year decrease: $441,700

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois is beginning to let immigrants apply for a driver's license if they're living in the U.S. illegally.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports appointments begin Tuesday for people to take license tests at two locations - one in Chicago and one in Springfield.

Four locations will offer the license exams by the end of the month. And about three dozen will offer the exams in January.

So far, more than 5,500 people have scheduled appointments.

The licenses are valid for three years and may be used only for driving. They can't be used as identification for activities like boarding a plane, voting or buying a firearm.

Supporters say the law will save Illinois motorists money and make roads safer. But critics say there's a potential for identity fraud.

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A bipartisan committee of lawmakers has approved a plan to deal with Illinois' $100 billion pension problem. The measure now moves to the House and Senate for consideration.

The Associated Press confirmed with six members of the 10-member panel that they had signed the measure Monday after arriving in Springfield for a special session.

Leaders announced the plan last week. It comes nearly five months after a special committee was formed to tackle the problem.

The proposal pushes back workers' retirement age on a sliding scale, has a funding guarantee, adds a 401k-style option and reduces the employee contribution.

It also would replace the current 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. Retirees would continue to receive that rate up to a certain amount of annuity payments, based on years of employment.

Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) — Candidates running for Illinois governor in 2014 have started shaping up their positions on a new pension proposal that lawmakers are expected to consider this week.

   Republican venture capitalist Bruce Rauner said in an email yesterday to supporters that it's the wrong deal for Illinois. He says the savings are insufficient and he doesn't agree with how lawmakers reached the agreement.

   Meanwhile Republican state Sen. Bill Brady says he's in favor. In a statement, he says that it's package of "meaningful reforms" that would strengthen Illinois' fiscal stability. Brady sat on a bipartisan pension panel for months.

   Last week, the state's four legislative leaders announced some details of the deal aimed at solving the state's nearly $100 billion pension crisis. It's estimated to save about $160 billion over three decades.

Published in Local News

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