Moody's Investors Service has revised the State of Illinois' credit outlook to negative from stable, while affirming the state's general obligation debt rating at A2. The state has about $28 billion of G.O. bonds outstanding. We have also affirmed related ratings assigned to state borrowings, including about $2.6 billion of debt issued by the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, rated A3, and the state's Build Illinois sales tax revenue bonds, rated A2, of which $2.7 billion are currently outstanding. The negative outlook is linked to ratings on the G.O. as well as the related credits.
The negative outlook reflects our view that the state's pension funding pressures are likely to persist and perhaps worsen in the near term. Moreover, fiscal 2014 marks the last year before Illinois' 2011 income tax increases are partly unwound, putting the state on track to deal with simultaneous growth in pension funding needs and loss of revenue. If the legislature in coming weeks or months enacts significant pension reforms, they are almost certain to be challenged, given the state's constitutional protection of retiree benefits. Political pressures, coupled with the threat of litigation, may mean that any reforms enacted have only a marginal effect on liabilities. Despite a diverse economy with above-average wealth, lackluster demographic and economic characteristics indicate that, even with continued US economic improvement, the state's existing tax structure will not provide enough revenue to address the rising cost of pension benefits and other state expenses. In addition, the state's payment backlog remains high.