Had your columnist Jim Dey called the Illinois Office of Comptroller for comment before accusing us of “an intentional misdirection play” in his Sept. 10 column, we might have been able to save him from getting his facts wrong and misleading News-Gazette readers.
He bought hook, line and sinker the (Dey’s word) “apocalyptic” rantings of a fringe website that our office highlighted only rosy economic news from the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) because we wanted to make Gov. J.B. Pritzker look good and former Gov. Bruce Rauner look bad.
The problem with that misrepresentation is the period covered by the recently released CAFR is fiscal year 2018, which was July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Rauner was governor at that time. Had our goal been to make Rauner look bad, we would have trumpeted the worst numbers chronicled by the CAFR and pointed to the governor at the time.
In fact, our apolitical news release highlighted a few of the more interesting numbers, good and bad, and invited everyone to explore all the numbers in the CAFR:
“The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) released today shows Illinois cut its general funds deficit by $6.849 billion — from a deficit of $14.612 billion in fiscal year 2017 to a deficit of $7.763 billion in fiscal year 2018. That is largely because of a refinancing of state debt from high-interest to low-interest repayment.
“The state’s total assets were approximately $53.9 billion on June 30, 2018, a decrease of $400 million from June 30, 2017. The state’s total liabilities were approximately $248.1 billion on June 30, 2018, an increase of $33.3 billion from June 30, 2017. The state’s largest liability balances are the net pension liability of $133.6 billion and the other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liability of $55.2 billion.”
That $55.2 billion OPEB number is a new calculation required to be included in every state’s CAFR’s this year, which made most states’ numbers jump, as did most states’ pension debt projections. That was all in our news release and extensively detailed in the CAFR itself.
Comptroller Mendoza has been outspoken about Illinois’ need to address its pension shortfall.
We expect misinformation from fringe websites. We expect better of The News-Gazette.
Director of communications
Illinois Office of Comptroller