Pension Funds Will Send Checks, But Still Face A Cash Crunch

Oct 15, 2015

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' lack of a budget means public pension systems won't get their state contribution next month. That won't stop retirees from getting their checks. However, there could still be an impact.

The funds get money from members, the state and in the case of the Teachers Retirement System, school districts. Dave Urbanek is the TRS spokesman. He says another key is investment income.

But some of those investments, like stocks and bonds, might have to be liquidated in order to send out future checks.

"You remember a few years ago, the state was in a similar position and didn't have enough cash on hand to pay all of its bills and delayed payments to the pension systems. What we had to do in that instance was sell a certain amount of our investment portfolio," he said.

A decision on selling could happen this month.

"We're looking at payments in December and January. We would need to make sure the cash in on hand now to make sure things continue to flow as normal," Urbanek added.

Overall, TRS controls enough of a portfolio to cover retiree benefits for a long while. So it's not an issue of running out of cash anytime soon. Still, there's not enough to pay all future obligations. Illinois' five pension systems have the largest unfunded liability in the country.

Selling assets will limit the income that can be made to bring down that amount.