CHICAGO - Last week, the Wall Street Journal featured a sobering piece about Detroit, bankruptcy and pensions. Then they turned their attention to the "Public Pension Red Alert" facing Chicago taxpayers:
Perhaps the biggest pension landmine outside of Detroit is Chicago. The Windy City next year must make a $1.07 billion balloon payment—equal to a third of the city's operating budget—on $19.4 billion of pension debt. The pension payment could cover salaries for 4,300 police officers or the resurfacing of 16,000 blocks of road, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has warned that property taxes may have to double to pay the bill.
Meantime, the required pension contribution for Chicago schools this year is tripling to $613 million. Chicago unions are pressing the state government to raise property, sales, income and corporate taxes to bail out worker pensions. Chicago's pension funds are only half as well-funded as even Detroit's, if you can believe it, and could run dry by 2020. With state politicians up for re-election this November and Chicago's mayoral race next February, it's more likely that investors will foot the bill.
Last month, Chicago's city council approved the issuance of $500 million in commercial paper and $900 million in general-obligation bonds purportedly to refinance existing debt and improve public works. There's little to stop politicians from pouring the proceeds into pensions—or later reneging on this unsecured debt if it were to file for bankruptcy.
More HERE "red alert" news about the city and state's pension crisis.