Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Emanuel Seeks Help In Dealing with City Pension Shortfall

Mayor met with legislative leaders in Springfield to discuss ways to avoid crisis

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A few days after Gov. Pat Quinn gave a State of the State speech without mentioning Chicago’s looming pension crisis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is reaching out to lawmakers in Springfield for help.

    Chicago is facing a nearly $600 million increase in fire and police pension payments next year. Without changes to state law by Springfield legislators, the city is expected to either slash city services, raise property taxes substantially or both to meet its pension obligations.

    On Friday, the mayor met with the four leaders of the Illinois General Assembly to discuss ways to avoid the unpleasant reality:

    A spokeswoman for Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said that last Friday Emanuel gave a presentation on the problem and then everyone at the meeting discussed ways to address it. The spokeswoman did not provide specifics.

    In September, the Tribune reported that a plan put forward by the mayor's chief Springfield ally, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, could provide a hint.

    The measure would require a series of small city property tax increases starting in 2018 --- three years into what would be Emanuel's second term as mayor. It also would delay the need for big increases in city pension payments to 2022, three years into what would be Emanuel's third term, if he decided to serve that long and was able to win re-election.

    Recently, Gov. Quinn signed a pension reform measure to address a $971 million deficit in the Chicago Park District’s pension program, a model that Mayor Emanuel and others may be looking to as a template for future reforms.

    However, a number of key unions are already signaling their deep opposition to the kind of pension reforms enacted at the park district or as part of the state’s pension reform legislation signed last year.

    Among the unions joining together are Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 …

    There’s also the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, which counts some 6,000 CPS employees — special education including classroom assistants, security officers and bus aides — among its members.

    “We want to come together as one and show a united front against unfair and unconstitutional pension reform,” SEIU spokesman Adam Rosen said.

    Also opposing the proposed emasures is the Chicago Teachers Union, whose leader, President Karen Lewis, points out that the union has been in negotiations with Chicago Public Schools for two years without a resolution.

    Chicago has the worst-funded public pension system of any city in the country, with the system only 35 percent funded, compared to New York's 60 percent and San Francisco's 88 percent.

    The mayor has said before that he’s confident Springfield with help solve the pension crisis at the city and Chicago Public Schools.