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Analysis Finds State Financial Woes Raised Borrowing Costs

Martin Luby
Institute of Government and Public Affairs

  The administration of Governor Bruce Rauner is touting the low interest rate Illinois got in last week’s bond sale. But at least one public finance expert says that’s not the full story. 

Given Illinois’ low credit rating and ongoing fiscal disaster, it was expected the state would have to promise a bigger payday in order to attract investors to its bond sale.

Instead, Illinois got a historically low interest rate — which the Rauner administration wasted no time in touting.

But Martin Luby, with the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs, says that leaves out important context.

"Relatively speaking, the state actually paid higher interest rates than what its paid in the past. It’s just that the overall level of interest rates for the whole market have gone down, and the state was a beneficiary of that," Luby said.

Luby says if Illinois still had the relatively strong credit rating it did a decade ago, the state would have paid an even lower rate on the bonds —ultimately worth $70 million to taxpayers.

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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