Mayor Emanuel amends Chicago pension reform plan

April 7, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Earlier Monday, Governor Pat Quinn sharply criticized Emanuel's proposed property tax increase. It isn't the first time these two powerful Democrats have disagreed on public policy. And with Gov. Quinn indicating Monday he'd never sign off on a Chicago tax increase, it appears the mayor will have to find a new approach to pension reform.

"This problem has been building for decades," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The mayor told reporters at a West Side high school that time has run out for Springfield lawmakers as well as elected officials in the city. He wants to put election year politics aside to resolve Chicago's unfunded pension debt.

"I refuse to do nothing, even at political consequence," said Mayor Emanuel.

Emanuel's plan for two of Chicago's four pension systems would increase employee contributions and reduce retiree cost of living raises. But state lawmakers and local aldermen are skittish about another component: to gradually increase the city's property tax over five years by anywhere from 28 to 32%.

"If we didn't do anything, there was going to be a 150% increase in property taxes which I fully reject," said Mayor Emanuel.

"If they think they're just going to gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We're not going to go that way," said Gov. Pat Quinn.

Emanuel's fellow Democrat, Gov. Quinn, who would have to sign enabling legislation while himself up for re-election, was on a different page altogether.

"Property taxpayers are overburdened in Illinois and we've got to change the policy. We have to have the courage to do the right thing," said Gov. Quinn.

Eyewitness News asked the mayor what he would say to politicians who resist his version of pension reform that includes a property tax increase.

"The times for us to not tell people the hard truth and to do the tough things are over," said Mayor Emanuel.

The mayor spoke before the governor made his comments about the property tax increase proposal. Governor Quinn said he would consider revenue sources other than a property tax increase to fund Chicago pensions, including a city casino, if somehow that long-debated controversy could be resolved.

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