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$108 billion debt and counting - for just a county

Thu Jun 23, 2011 2:36 pm

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas oversees 553 local government bodies. They include school districts, municipalities and all the other line-item entries on property tax bills.

Two years ago, she asked each and every one of those local government bodies to provide an accurate accounting of their debts and obligations. On Tuesday she disclosed a semi-complete total: $108 billion.

That's a fair amount of money. Sadly, it won't be the final total. There are 53 entities that still need to report in and retiree health benefits have yet to be calculated. We'll take a wild guess and estimate that the final number will land somewhere near $120 billion.

This saddles the typical Cook County suburban household with at least a $33,000 tax bill. Your typical Chicago household is on the hook for a minimum of $66,000.

Cook County and the 553 local government bodies under its purview cannot be bailed out on these debts and obligations. The state of Illinois is broke. The Federal government nears default. Ben Bernanke said yesterday no QE3 (which might have allowed the Fed to buy up a lot of muni bonds). So there's no way out. It's pay up or default. ... opicid=434

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