Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Quinn Signs Emanuel's Pension Bill

The Illinois governor urges the Chicago mayor not to raise property taxes

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has until 11:59 p.m. Monday to sign -- or veto -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension reform bill. Anthony Ponce reports.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension reform bill.

The legislation sat on Quinn's desk in Springfield for weeks with no action from the governor, who previously expressed disapproval of the mayor's proposal to raise property taxes by $250 million in order to shore up underfunded two city pensions.

"Today's action is another step toward correcting the series of financial challenges that have been building over the last few decades," Emanuel said in a statement Monday. "I thank the Governor for his leadership, the General Assembly, and our partners in labor who worked with us to reach a responsible long-term solution that will allow us to chart a stronger future for Chicago."

Emanuel has used his media pulpit to repeatedly urge Quinn to sign the bill, and recently pitched a Chicago telephone tax as an alternative solution that Quinn signed into law Friday. That gave the governor an "out" to offer his signature without the taint of a lofty property tax hike.

"While I am committed to the public pension reforms embodied in Senate Bill 1922, I was dismayed by the ill-advised attempt to have the Illinois General Assembly impose a property tax increase on the people of Chicago as part of this legislation," Gov. Quinn said Monday in a statement.

"I am encouraged by the public support for my position and the public opposition to automatic reliance on the property tax to solve the fiscal problems of the City of Chicago," wrote Quinn, urging Emanuel to nix a property tax incease and follow the state's lead in reforming pensions without raising taxes for homeowners and businesses.

The city pension bill increases employee contributions by 29 percent and reduces benefits to rescue the Municipal Employees and Laborers pensions.

Both Democrats face tough re-election battles ahead despite an incumbency advantage in a blue state over which their party has a stronghold. Quinn's political fate will be decided Nov. 4, and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner is proving a fierce foe who is not above the occasional low-blow pranks to get his anti-corruption message across. (Meanwhile, the Winnetka-based venture capitalist has more than a few skeletons inside his closet.)

No opponent has stepped up to run against Emanuel in next February's mayoral election. But Emanuel's future in City Hall remains uncertain as the blunt-speaking, pro-business boss fends off growing criticism from Chicagoans over his lack of a bedside manner and his controversial agendas for education and overhauling the pension system, among other hot-button issues.

The two appeared at an immigration reform event here on Monday morning and also made cameos at a Sunday brunch to celebrate the passage of the same-sex marriage law in Illinois where Emanuel praised Quinn as "a governor who shows leadership when there is time for courage."

Following the bill-signing announcement, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider released a missive blasting Quinn and plugged Rauner in the process.

“Pat Quinn just signed the hardworking taxpayers up for five straight years of property tax hikes," said Schneider. "It's clear that we need a major change in Illinois, starting with a governor who will finally stand up to tax hikes, not sign them."

Meanwhile, a coalition of Chicago unions including the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Nurses Association is threatening to sue the city, saying Monday in a statement: "The Mayor's plan is unfair and unconstitutional, and our unions intend to seek justice and will be preparing to file suit," 

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