Under tight deadline, Illinois lawmakers voted to set aside $50 million for Chicago teacher pensions in the rush to get things done before the Capitol closes shop for the summer.
House approval came Wednesday as the chamber, which adjourns Saturday, scrambled to streamline a passable budget strategy, one bill at a time.
The $50 million earmarked for the city's public schoolteachers stands to resume a yearly commitment to financing pensions that fell by the wayside as the state struggled with a pension crisis of its own. The cash comes as part of a $20 billion education budget that also includes $35 million for Chicago school construction as well as $40 million for construction and upkeep for schools in the suburbs and downstate.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools remain plagued by a hot mess of financial problems -- not to mention growing internal discord over performance pressure, among other gripes -- amid a looming due date to pay $613 million to underfunded teacher pensions, due in June 2015.
In other pension-related Springfield business, Speaker Michael Madigan teamed up with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle -- a maybe-candidate to challenge Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel next February -- to advance her pension-reform proposal through a House committee. That measure, if signed into law, would trim benefits and raise the retirement age while providing health care for retirees. (The Senate, also controlled by Democrats, gave its stamp of approval on Tuesday.)
But Republican state reps have balked at Preckwinkle's bill, which calls for a $147 increase in pension contributions, fearing that it would lead to a hike in property taxes in line with a similar (and unpopular) pension fix by Emanuel.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Civic Federation support her legislation, according to Crain's Chicago Business.