Chicago pension overhaul OK'd by House, Senate

Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday approved Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's overhaul proposal for two city pension programs.
April 9, 2014 4:05:44 AM PDT
State lawmakers on Tuesday approved Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's overhaul proposal for two city pension programs that officials say could otherwise be out of money in little more than a decade.

The Illinois House and Senate approved the mayor's pension reform plan, but left the decision to raise taxes to the Chicago City Council.

As soon as the pension bill was stripped of any mandate or mention of a property tax increase, it sped through both general assembly chambers.

The pension bill, as it stands, only changes employee contributions to two of the city's pension funds and reduces the cost-of-living increases for retirees.

A tax increase to replenish those two funds is left up entirely to the Chicago City Council.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a brief statement about Tuesday's action in Springfield.

''We will not let the politics and politics of the past stand in the way of progress as we build a stronger Chicago,'' Emanuel said. ''This legislation and the willingness of our residents, our employees and retirees to make these necessary changes shows that we can look to challenge it squarely in the and address it together,'' Emanuel said.

A spokesman told ABC 7 Eyewitness News Tuesday afternoon the bill faces an uncertain future.

Alma Wingard, 66, worked for 33 years as a library clerk in Chicago and retired in 2003. Since her retirement, the annual cost-of-living increases in her city pension have barely kept up with the cost of living. she says her property tax bill is no exception.

''My nest egg is gone, totally gone,'' Wingard said. ''You can't buy anything today at the same price that it was even three months or six months ago,'' she said.

If Mayor Emanuel has his way, Alma Wingard's pension cost-of-living increases will be less, and the Chicago portion of the property tax that she pays on her South Side home will increase by as much as 32 percent.

Chicago has the worst-funded pension systems of any major U.S. city, and officials have yet to address $10 billion in unfunded liability for police and fire retirees and $7 billion for teacher pensions.

Gov. Pat Quinn did not promise he would sign the bill now that the tax language was removed.

''I'd have to look at the whole bill. I'm not going to make a decision on a bill until it's actually passed and totally reviewed from top to bottom,'' Quinn said.

Wingard says if her pension benefit is cut and her property taxes continue to rise she might have to leave her South Side neighborhood. She's angry that she and other pensioners have been blamed for Chicago's fiscal crisis.

''We're not the reason that the city is going broke, we're just not,'' Wingard said.

If Quinn signs the bill, the property tax portion would not become effective until 2016. This date is after the 2015 elections, when the mayor's office and all the aldermanic seats will be decided.

The bill is SB1922. For more information go to, http://www.ilga.gov. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Load Comments