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Report Questions Illinois' Low Credit Rating

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  Governor Pat Quinn says Illinois' failure to solve its pension problem means the state will have to pay $130 million more in interest on bonds it sold Wednesday. But a new study is questioning Illinois' low debt rating.

Illinois got an average interest rate of five percent on the $1.3 billion bond sale — and had to turn away many potential buyers.

Quinn spokesman AbdonPallasch says that's better than some expected. But, he says, "We're still paying a premium for the General Assembly's failure to pass a comprehensive pension reform bill."

Rating agencies have cited the lack of a pension fix as they've repeatedly downgraded Illinois' credit — ranking it last among the 50 states.

Quinn and other politicians have cited the low grade as they argue for cutting government employee retirement benefits.

But in a new paper, Marc Joffe — a former employee of the Moody's rating agency — says his statistical models show Illinois' risk of default is low.

"Illinois itself has had clean credit since 1857, so that's an incredibly long period of stable credit performance," Joffe says.

He says no state has defaulted on its debt since 1933.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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