Chicago pension bill now in Quinn's hands

The big question Wednesday night is whether or not Gov. Pat Quinn, who wants to lower property taxes, will sign off on Mayor Rahm Emanuel?s pension reform bill.
April 9, 2014 4:24:39 PM PDT
The big question Wednesday night is over whether or not Gov. Pat Quinn, who wants to lower property taxes, will sign off on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension reform bill.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, the two Democratic politicians were incommunicado.

The mayor said he tried calling Gov. Pat Quinn, hoping to discuss when the governor might sign the bill passed Tuesday by the general assembly.

''I placed a call to him this morning. We missed each other but we will be in conversation about when,'' Emanuel said.

In Springfield, Quinn said he'll take time to review the measure he called "complicated'' adding that he had not returned the mayor's phone call or talked to Emanuel since last weekend.

''I haven't talked to him, I probably talked to him Saturday and I saw him at a gathering and that's about the last time I talked to him,'' Quinn said.

The plan to reform the pension systems affecting Chicago's non-public safety workers would raise employee contributions, reduce some retiree benefits and over a five year period, increase the city property tax by 32 percent.

It's the tax increase part that has the governor considering to not signing the measure.

''I wouldn't presume that anyone is going to use property taxes to pay their pension obligations. I want to reduce property taxes in our state,'' Quinn said.

''We're asking, as I said something from everyone so no one has to give everything,'' Emanuel said.

Meanwhile, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle - mentioned as a possible candidate for Chicago mayor in 2015 - would not criticize Emanuel's push for a tax increase. And she would not rule out one for Cook County, which has its own pension debt.

''We're looking at all our options,'' Preckwinkle said.

The mayor called suggestions the city impose an office-lease tax or an income tax as opposed to an increased property tax "non-starters"

Despite Quinn's apparent apprehension, Emanuel said he's moving forward with his current plan, albeit politically risky.

''I was never going to put my political interest ahead of the city of Chicago. So I stepped up and did what I think is necessary and here's what I think is the right way to do it,'' Emanuel said.

In other political news, there's some good news for the mayor as of Wednesday afternoon. A tentative agreement has been reached with firefighters, who have been without a contract for just under 22 months.

If ratified, the contract will not affect the firefighter or police pension systems which remain underfunded and not included in the reform bill passed yesterday in Springfield.

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