Cook County Taxpayers May Be On Hook For $108 Billion In Debt

CHICAGO (CBS) — A report from Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas claims taxpayers countywide are on the hook for more than $108 billion in debt accrued by various government agencies, including more than $25 billion in unfunded public pension liabilities.

The report shows that only a quarter of the county’s more than 500 taxing bodies are funding pension plans at 80 percent or more, an amount considered “healthy” by federal standards.

“It’s like if I were surgeon general, I’d say that 75 percent of our governments are morbidly obese,” Pappas said. “I don’t think there’s any one cure for the debt problem, just like I don’t think there’s one cure for obesity.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

Pappas said governments in the county should look to reduce employee counts to offset debt costs and implement automation and technological advances to increase efficiency.

“This simple, common sense approach has saved taxpayers millions of dollars,” Pappas said of similar efforts in her own office.

The Civic Federation, a tax watchdog organization that analyzes government budgets, commended Pappas’ report.

“We think it’s a strong contribution to the debate on the number of governments in Illinois as well as our local governments’ debt levels and pension obligations,” said Laurence Msall, the group’s president.

Msall told WBBM Newsradio 780 that not all the $108 billion in debt is “bad,” since some if it is from bonds issued for long term projects like roads and sewers and schools that will be paid off. But he says issuance of debt, borrowing money, to pay pension liabilities or meet a payroll is just bad and has to be stopped.

And Msall agreed with Pappas that 550 taxing districts is far too many taxing district for any one county, even one as large as Cook county.

  • F Santiago

    This is one of the worst website designs I have ever encountered. There is wasted blank space because too much of your display is columnar serial. Ends of text lines must past behind partially opague logs. More is wrong but I tire of being on this site.

    • wondering

      Did you read the article yet?

  • Roberta Waker

    People scamming the taxpayers need to be prosecuted and jailed. Then, their assets need to be seized to repay what they stole. We should start with our government and those that stole from Social Security and work our way down to Cook County and all the other agencies that are stealing from the taxpayers.

    • Tammy

      Totally agree! What makes it worse is the general public can come up with better ideas to reduce the deficit than the ones who we have elected in office! Rather it is the ASSUMPTION of our “government” that the taxpayers can pick up another tab of a MISMANAGED state.

      When does it end?

  • Citizen for a Livable Chicago

    Pappas and her democratic colleague, like Joe Barrios are the problem and have created this situation. Through the years the democrats have drained the tax payers dry. How many of your friends and family are on the payroll? How many of these Cook County jobs are even necessary?? Now Pappas, come on like she’s really concerned. What are her qualifications to even run the office she has except she is part of a corrupt Cook County system. Yes, we are broke thanks to people like Pappas and the Democrats. Just look at the last four letters in Democrats, that should tell the story.

  • Chivi

    We should start by getting rid of rip offs like Pappas. She should be on the biggest hook there is. Get rid of her and her pets and save some money!!!

  • Homeless

    First this is a FEDERAL issue: When the government themselves are stealing the taxpayers money and using it for their own personal interest, and these are people in charge of the schools, of our garbage, of the cops, of the streets, of the city itself, and the people who put them in charge are just as guilty. We give so we can live better and but really it is we give YOU (government) so you can live better and then keep asking us for more? While we are living in a SH-T hole.


    And as Pappas, how much do you think those beautiful earrings and necklace cost: like $500.000 billion? It can’t be cuz than their won’t be enough for the 2012 Mercedes or 2012 Rolls Royce.

  • nauseated

    Remember in January Prekwinkle questioned why Tom Dart’s sheriffs dept had 20% of his employees off on medical leave. We never heard another word about it. Sounds like “no show” jobs to me. Stroger jacked up the sales tax to the highest in the nation and we later found he had twice what he needed to balance the budget. So what happened in the past couple years to run up a 108 billion deficit? Don’t really see that described in the article. So are they going to jack up the sales tax to 12% or more? Are they going to jack up the property taxes to pay for lavish pensions, those where people 52 years old can collect 75% of their pay? Who out there can retire at 52 no less get 75% of their pay?

  • bob

    Looks like there’s 108 billionairs out there that used to work for Cook County.


    So this is the heavy price you “pay” being a taxpayer.

    Everybody involved including their families, who stole this unbelieveably staggering, enormous amount of money, they stand around with hands in pockets, looking up at the sky, whistling….they know “nothing.”

    You just watch. Nobody, not one person will go to jail.

  • tom Sharp

    What ever happened to the “follow-up” CBS promised on Pam Zeckman’s expose of Pappas and her insane wasting of tax dollars?

    Here is an obvious cure for a big part of the debt–1)enforce tough nepotism and ethics rules.

    2) enforce the cell phone and texting in vehicles laws. On the corner of Fullerton, Halsted and lincoln, my daughter and I counted 13 violations of this in one minute!

  • dream on baby

    And all of this stolen money is gonna have to come out of our butts so they can steal it again?

  • sickened

    To start with, end these lavish pensions. Let them retire at 62 with reduced benes like everyone else, 67 for full. Elderly retirees on Social Security haven’t gotten an increase in 3 years. End this lunicy of 75% of their pay for the rest of their lives.

    Get the feds in for an independant audit and find out where the 108 bil went and start putting these suckkas in jail.

  • Homeless

    And Don’t forget they make us the taxpayers but then they are the ones using the free cars w/government plates, free cell phones w/services, free gas and donuts, free free free.

  • S Bob Osbourne

    Too funny. Only one party to blame. The democratic party. Destroying another city. $100 BILLION in debt? Lake Michigan is going to swallow this city whole.

    Pat Quinn is doing the same thing downstate. The entire state controlled by the donkey party and look what they do.

    I hope the next made for TV political drame in Illinois is the democratic parties self destruction. I know its coming. The question is, will it be televised?

  • IL Pensions: Will Your Pension Be Worthless? « The LP 72980/The LP 999 Blog

    […] More on debt: The report shows that only a quarter of the county’s more than 500 taxing bodies are funding pension plans at 80 percent or more, an amount considered “healthy” by federal standards. […]

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