Attorney faults Illinois governor hopefuls for downplaying massive debt
A Chicago attorney is taking the Illinois gubernatorial candidates to task for not addressing the massive debt that the state is facing.
In a recent column, Eugene Keefe of Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates, said the state will be bankrupted for generations if a plan isn’t developed now to address debt and unpaid bills.
Keefe said there are $17 billion in unpaid Illinois state bills. Moody’s Investor’s Service estimated the state debt generated from this at $251 billion in June 2016, he said.
“It has to be around $275 to $300 billion or more by now because no one is paying that spiraling debt down a dime," Keefe said. "It rises by several million dollars every hour of every day."
The Democratic candidates for governor, J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, do not have plans to address this, Keefe said. Kennedy gives it a brief mention on his website, with no recommendations for fixes, while Pritzker’s website does not talk about it at all, Keefe said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is seeking federal assistance, Keefe said.
“Gov. Rauner is bravely trying to get federal help to rein in our impossible-to-fund government pensions,” he said. “One thought is to change/amend the U.S. Constitution to protect all U.S. taxpayers from this massive fake government pension rip-off.”
There are 700,000 former Illinois government workers on “fake government pensions,” Keefe said.
“This whole unspoken government concept is going to ‘break’ or explode into failure/Armageddon when Wall Street cuts off borrowing or won’t underwrite bond issues to all these nutty Illinois government entities who are rated slightly above junk status right now,” Keefe said.
“Gosh only knows what that will do to jobs, home prices/sales, schools and everything else. How can our elected officials ignore it and sweep it under the nearest rug?”
Keefe blamed the Illinois government unions for the tight lips on the discussion.
“In my view, any candidate for governor who talks about it is going to be cannon-balled and the government unions are going to fight like the dickens and send hundreds of emails to their members to attack/block/defeat that noble candidate,” Keefe said.
He cited a Chicago Tribune article that reported on the “massively high retirement package” of former University of Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther.
Guenther’s career contributions to his retirement program totaled $615,000, including interest, the Tribune reported.
Currently, Guenther is receiving $473,094 annually, Keefe said. In 2019, that will rise to $500,000 a year. In 2026, the yearly pay will be $854,000. Keefe added that no state income tax is paid on this amount.
“In 26 years, you and me and our kids and grandkids will be paying Ron Guenther more than $1 million a year not to work," Keefe said. "These increases and payments are guaranteed by the Illinois constitution."
He suggested several ways to start a conversation with the candidates for governor. Ask them:
- Do you support ending fake unfunded/unfundable government pensions?
- If this practice is stopped immediately, when will Illinois, local governments and taxpayers be free of debt?
- What do you think of providing 401ks to new government workers? This could save millions.