Illinois Too Broke to Fix: Chicago Police Pension Fund Broke by 2021 at the Latest

The Chicago City Wire has a projection regarding pensions that matches my prior projections: Chicago’s police pension fund will be broke in 2021.

by Mish

"Without a taxpayer bailout, Chicago’s police pension fund won’t have enough money to pay benefits to retirees in 2021, according to a projection by Local Government Information Services (LGIS), which publishes Chicago City Wire.

At the end of 2020, LGIS estimates that the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago will have less than $150 million in assets to pay $928 million promised to 14,133 retirees the following year.

Fund assets will fall from $3.2 billion at the end of 2015 to $1.4 billion at the end of 2018, $751 million at the end of 2019, and $143 million at the end of 2020, according to LGIS.

LGIS analyzed 12 years of the fund’s mandated financial filings with the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), which regulates public pension funds. It found that– without taxpayer subsidies and the ability to use active employee contributions to pay current retirees, a practice that is illegal in the private sector– the fund would have already run completely dry, in 2015.

The Chicago police pension fund held $3.2 billion in assets in 2003. It shelled out $3.8 billion more in benefits to retired police officers than it generated in investment returns between 2003 and 2015.

Over that span, the fund paid out $6.9 billion and earned $3.0 billion, paying an additional $134 million in fees to investment managers.

Even assuming Chicago taxpayers and active Chicago police officers continue subsidizing the fund at traditional levels, and that the fund manages to generate investment returns consistent with the last 12 years– 5.19 percent per year, on average– its assets will still race to zero, outpaced by faster-growing benefit payments."

Income vs Benefit Projections

Higher Salaries Bigger Retirements

Read the article for more gory details but here is one key point: Chicago taxpayers are currently paying more retired police officers than they are active ones as salaries soared by 39% and pension spiking escalated.

2021 at the Latest

The above analysis assumes fund manages to generate investment returns consistent with the last 12 years– 5.19 percent per year, on average.

What happens if it’s even less?

The obvious answer is the fund will run out of money prior to 2021. And that is precisely what I expect.

Projected Returns

I am giving a presentation on Saturday and here are a few slides I will be discussing.

Shiller P/E Ratio

Median P/Es

Projected Returns

Tweet of the Day

Earlier today, Johnathan Tepper Tweeted “Two Powerful charts showing you what kind of equity returns to expect over the next 10 years. Enjoy

"Two powerful charts showing you what kind of equity returns to expect over next 10 years. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/vjpSJaDDOy

— Jonathan Tepper (@jtepper2) June 23, 2017"

Too Broke to Fix

Higher taxes will drive people and businesses away. Reform is too late to save Illinois public pensions.

On June 21, I commented Governor Bruce Rauner Screws Illinois when the governor proposed raising taxes while asking for virtually nothing in return.

Proposed Deal

  1. Four-year tax hike to 4.95%, up from 3.75%
  2. Expansion of sales taxes
  3. New taxes on cable and satellite TV
  4. Four-year property tax freeze
  5. No right-to-work reform
  6. No collective bargaining reform
  7. No pension reform
  8. No workers’ compensation reform
  9. No spending cuts
  10. No term limits
  11. No gerrymandering reform

The freeze will be off in four years so Republicans would gain nothing.

That’s not a done deal yet, as Democrats want even more. Hopefully, Rauner changes his mind.

“B” Word Hits Chicago

On January 20, Governor Rauner proposed bankruptcy for the Chicago Public School System. I commented “B” Word Hits Chicago

In the above link, I stated that Illinois desperately needs five things.

Five Desperately Needed Reforms

  1. Municipal bankruptcy legislation
  2. Pension reform
  3. Right-to-Work legislation
  4. End of prevailing wage laws
  5. Workers’ compensation reform

Bankruptcy, the ONLY Solution

Number one on my list of Illinois reforms is bankruptcy legislation. It is the only hope for numerous Illinois cities strapped with impossible-to-pay pension liabilities.

As part of any budget package, Rauner must demand municipal bankruptcy legislation. Bankruptcy is the only solution for Illinois that works.

The system is simply too broke to fix.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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