State Roundup: Unfunded pension liability greater impact than fluctuating revenue

From Illinois News Network

Fluctuating revenue definitely impacts year-to-year government operations, but in terms of states’ long-term fiscal health unfunded pension liabilities will have a greater impact. That’s according to the director of a research project reviewing trends in all 50 states’ revenue since the end of the Great Recession.

Barb Rosewicz, Research Director for Pew Charitable Trusts’ Fiscal 50 project, says the trending levels of increased revenue in Illinois could come down in future updates because of the sunsetting of an increased income tax rate but fluctuating revenue won’t have long-term effects on Illinois’ fiscal health. Rosewicz says spending on pensions will.

“Unfunded pension and retiree healthcare liabilities are a claim on a state’s future revenues so it’s important for policy makers to understand what those liabilities are and to begin grappling with them now so they’re not pushing those costs off into the future.”

Rosewicz says not addressing increased pension costs, like Illinois’ growing pension crisis, will push the cost for services already rendered onto future generations. Pew’s analysis of all 50 states showed North Dakota’s revenue jump of 126 percent because of increased business activity in the state’s oil industry. Illinois’ revenue jumped 23 percent after the temporary increase in the state’s income tax. Regardless of the increased revenue over several years, Illinois still has a growing $111 billion unfunded pension liability.

Car sales on Sunday measure could be on the move

A state senator hopes to move on his measure allowing car dealers to be open on Sundays, but he’s got some staunch resistance–car dealer associations. Senator Jim Oberweis says Illinois’ 32-year-old law mandating car dealers be closed on Sunday could come up for committee consideration in the next couple of weeks and he’s encouraging consumers to reach out to their lawmakers to show support for lifting the ban.

But, Pete Sander of the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association says there are a host of reasons to mandate car dealers be closed on Sunday, including banking, insurance and staffing concerns. Sander says if the law isn’t broke then why try to fix it?

“The customers like to have a day where they can go and shop at different car lots and kinda kick the tires, look at prices and not have to worry about a salesman trying to chase them around the lot and sit down and purchase a vehicle.”

However Oberweis says the bill is about doing the right thing by getting rid of special interest legislation and being more consumer friendly.

“It’s doing the right thing about getting government out of policy areas where it has no business such as telling a retail establishment whether they can be open or closed on a particular day of the week. That’s just fundamentally wrong. They do that in Russia. They do that in China. I’m pretty sure they do that in Cuba. They should not be doing that in the United States of America.”

Oberweis says at first he thought his proposal would be championed by the car dealers, but quickly found out that wasn’t the case and there were lobbying groups in support of the Sunday sales ban. David Sloan of the Chicago Auto Trade Association says the bill, advocated by car dealer associations 32 years ago, helps car dealers in the marketplace where the competition is already heavy.

“They are working their tails off to compete and this is something that helps them.”

But, Oberweis says it is still fundamentally wrong for government to tell a business they can’t be open on a particular day.

“It’s wrong for government to do that. It’s wrong for government to do that even if the dealers want it. And it’s almost even arguably more wrong when the dealers are using this to prevent competition, to squash competition in the marketplace.”

Oberweis says a recent poll conducted by We Ask America found that by 2 to 1 consumers favor having the option of buying a car on Sunday. Illinois is one of 15 states that regulate car sales on Sunday with an outright ban from the practice. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission came out in support of lifting the ban saying the law limits choice for the consumer and unfairly stifles competition .

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