Illinois Budget That Avoided Junk Rating May Add to Pension Debt

Illinois’s biggest financial challenge, the $130 billion debt to its workers’ pension funds, may only get bigger thanks to the budget that pulled the government back from the brink.

That spending plan, pushed through by lawmakers eager to keep Illinois’s bond rating from being cut to junk, allows the state to sink deeper into the hole by giving it five years to phase in hundreds of millions of dollars in increased contributions to four of its five retirement plans. Those extra payments stemmed from the funds’ decisions to roll back forecasts for what they expect to make on their investments, which means Illinois will need to set aside more taxpayer money to ensure they can cover pension checks due in the decades ahead.

“The phase-in of the actuarial assumption is another exercise in kicking the can down the road, but we’re not sure how far the can travels,” said Dave

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