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Toni Preckwinkle 'Optimistic' About Cook County Pension Deal

The Cook County Board president secures support of two major unions

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Toni Preckwinkle 'Optimistic' About Cook County Pension Deal

A spokesperson for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she's "still optimistic" about getting a pension deal passed in Springfield this month, Crain's Chicago Business reports.

The maybe-mayoral candidate has reached a tentative agreement with union leaders that would reduce worker benefits while mandating taxpayers to contribute an extra $150 million per year. Preckwinkle's proposal includes guaranteed health care coverage for retired workers, with the county earmarking a yearly sum of $50 million, and a gradual increase in retirement age from 50 to 55 for employees with 30 years' employment and 60 to 65 for those with less than 30 years on the government payroll.

The way things are going, cash-strapped county pensions are forecast to go broke within the next two decades. According to Crain's, state lawmakers began drawing up legislation last week as Preckwinkle received unspoken approval from the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union. The support of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees remains up in the air amid opposition from the Illinois Nurses Association.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton will reportedly attempt to advance Preckwinkle's plan through the General Assembly on May 31.

Gov. Pat Quinn, meanwhile, continues to stall on signing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pledge to raise property taxes to shore up two underfunded city pensions. The governor -- plagued by a series of corruption-related federal and state investigations as he fights a tough battle for reelection against Republican challenger Bruce Rauner -- has said he opposes a property tax hike.

Preckwinkle is not expected to lay out any set-in-stone budget-and-tax tweaks should she hash out an official pact with the unions.

Many political observers are eyeing the veteran politician as a potential contender to face off against Emanuel in 2015's mayoral race.

In an interview with Crain's on Tuesday, Emanuel -- defending himself against an onslaught of bad press -- addressed chatter over a Preckwinkle run.

"My job is to do my job," he said. "I know what she said to me, and I think she's a person of her word. But I'm going to keep my eye on the ball here."

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