Ward Room
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Illinois Legislature OKs Chicago Pension Overhaul

The Senate voted 31-23 Tuesday on the proposal

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Bob Fioretti react to the passage of the pension bill and what it could mean for Chicago taxpayers. Rob Elgas reports.

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The state Legislature has approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan for overhauling two Chicago pension programs, sending the measure to Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Senate voted 31-23 Tuesday on the proposal to cut benefits and increase city and employee contributions to help reduce a $9 billion shortfall. The shortfall is in accounts covering 57,000 employees and retirees among municipal workers and laborers.

It hinges on a plan by Democrat Emanuel to raise property taxes by $750 million over five years.

The Illinois House approved the measure earlier Tuesday after House Speaker Michael Madigan removed language that included a Chicago city property tax increase.

Senate Republicans complained that the city still faces shortfalls in three other pension accounts.

Quinn wouldn't say if he will sign the bill.

Emanuel read a statement calling it "an important day for Chicago residents and our city's future."

"We are stepping up and taking on our toughest challenges - many of which have been decades in the making. We have shown that we will not let politics stand in the way of progress as we build a stronger Chicago. For the sake of our city, we asked a lot of our residents, our employees and our retirees to accept change -- and that's never easy. I believe that the certainty we are now providing will make the change worth it." -- Mayor Emanuel

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) says he will vote no if the mayor tries to add a property tax increase, but he believes his colleagues will disagree.

"The is the most compliant city council almost in the last 50 years, and they will probably vote for whatever the mayor says," Fioretti said.

The pension bill requires Chicago to raise new revenue totaling $250 million, tiered over five years in order to fund two of the city's four pensions.

If the city fails to raise that money, the Illinois comptroller could step in and divert state funds away from Chicago and into those pensions.

A property tax increase could translate into around $50 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home, and $700 in the fifth year for a commercial property owner with the same value.

We Are One Chicago, a coalition of union groups representing teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters, issued a statement urging Quinn to veto the bill.

Union leaders say the employees could lose up to a third of their retirement life savings under the bill and labeled it "another attempt at pension theft."

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