Crain's Chicago Business: Pritzker backs off plan to defer pension payments

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has dropped plans to defer making $952 million in required payments to state pension funds this year—an action he’s attributing to rising tax receipts from a booming economy, but one that may give him some protection from political conservatives.

In a stunning letter to legislative leaders late Tuesday afternoon, Pritzker Revenue Director David Harris announced that income tax receipts in April were $1.14 billion above the figure of April 2018, and $1.5 billion more than “conservative” earlier projections.

That hike is likely to continue into the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, Harris wrote. And therefore a $1.6 billion shortfall in this year’s budget has been eliminated and the state will be able to make its full pension pension payment next year.

Pritzker’s budget initially had proposed extending the state’s current pension “ramp”—the period in which it will bring the retirement systems to full, 90 percent funding—from the current 2045 to 2052. That would allow the state to put in $952 million less next year and spend the money instead on more political popular items, such as higher education, public grade and high schools and social services.

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