WBEZ | pension http://www.wbez.org/tags/pension Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn signs Chicago pension bill as Emanuel backs off property tax hike http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman-(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated at 5:15 p.m.</em></p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a controversial overhaul of two Chicago pension systems into law on Monday, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed he wouldn&#39;t raise property taxes for at least a year to pay for the pension changes.</p><p>Those changes, which were pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by state lawmakers in April, would scale back retirement benefits and requite City Hall to pump more money into the troubled pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. The municipal fund is projected to have only 37 percent of the money it will need in the future, while fund for laborers will have just over half the money it will need.</p><p>To bolster the two ailing pension funds, Emanuel had been pushing to raise Chicago property taxes by $50 million a year, netting the city $750 million dollars in new revenue over a five-year phase-in period. Emanuel backed off that plan after Quinn signed the bill on Monday.</p><p>In a statement released after Monday&#39;s bill signing, Quinn reiterated his disdain for that approach.</p><p>&quot;I strongly urge the Mayor and City Council to follow our lead and identify a comprehensive, balanced solution to Chicago&#39;s pension crisis,&quot; Quinn wrote, referring to a recent overhaul of the state&#39;s pension systems. &quot;Chicago&#39;s finances can and should be set on the track to long-term stability in a way that does not hit homeowners the hardest.&quot;</p><p>In a phone interview with WBEZ minutes after the governor&#39;s office announced he&#39;d signed the bill, Emanuel suggested the city could raise its monthly telephone tax to free up more money for pensions.</p><p>&quot;It gives us the opportunity now to take property taxes off the table for the first year,&quot; Emanuel said.</p><p>On Friday, Quinn signed a law that will allow Chicago to increase its monthly telephone tax from the current $2.50 to $3.90, which some speculated could be used to pay for pensions. The new revenue must fund the city&#39;s 911 call system, but a hike would also make more money available for the higher city pension contributions required by the new law.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re gonna find a lot of efficiences and savings,&quot; Emanuel said. &quot;We now have a year to see alternatives, and we have the breathing room now to do that, which we secured.&quot;</p><p>The mayor would not say how he&#39;d pay for higher pension costs after next year, nor did he outline any fix for the ailing pension funds for police, firefighters and Chicago teachers. But the new tack relieves him of having to convince aldermen to raise property taxes, just months before the citywide elections in February 2015. It also gets Quinn out of a political pickle.</p><p>Easing the property tax burden on Illinoisans has been a pillar of the governor&rsquo;s 2015 state budget proposal. Signing the bill would have opened up the governor to more attacks from his Republican gubernatorial challenger, Bruce Rauner, who <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/robo-calls-raise-rauner-rahm-rift/tue-04222014-613pm">has already argued</a> that Quinn would be paving the way for a tax increase with his signature.</p><p>The mayor&#39;s administration says the pension bill signed Monday would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s roughly $20 billion public pension problem, largely by cutting back benefits for current and future retirees. But it could take decades for those penison funds to become healthy again.</p><p>More than 22,000 retirees would lose their 3 percent compounding annual benefit increase. Instead, retirees would see their pension checks increase at a flat 3 percent or half the rate of inflation, whichever is less. And all but the poorest workers would receive no increase at all in 2017, 2019 and 2025.</p><p>That means, under the bill&rsquo;s provisions, a retiree with a $35,500 annual pension would see their benefit grow to nearly $40,000 by 2025, according to a WBEZ analysis. But under the current system, their pension would be about $49,000 by that time.</p><p>More than 34,000 current city workers would have to pay more into the pension systems, but get less out of it once they retire. By 2019, workers would be paying 11 percent of each paycheck toward retirement, compared to the current 8.5 percent. That contribution rate would drop to 9.75 percent once the pension funds are healthy, which could take decades.</p><p>City Hall would also pay more. The bill would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329">anachronistic funding formula</a> Chicago has used for decades to calculate its annual pension contributions, which is a primary cause of the current underfunding crisis. And if future politicians try to skimp on payments, the pension funds will be empowered to take City Hall to court, while the state could begin intercepting the city&rsquo;s share of state money.</p><p>Meanwhile, a coalition of powerful city workers&#39; unions released a statement late Monday slamming the governor&#39;s action because they believe the bill violates a part of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con13.htm">Illinois Constitution</a>&nbsp;that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, some elected officials have chosen to ignore the constitution...opting instead to slash the retirement life savings of our city&#39;s public health professionals, teachers&#39; aides, librarians, cafeteria workers, and other public employees and retirees,&quot; the statement reads. &quot;The Mayor&#39;s plan is unfair and unconstitutional, and our unions intend to seek justice and will be preparing to file suit.&quot;</p><p>Gov. Quinn has talked about the Chicago pension plan in the context of a tax system that he says allows municipalities and local governments to rely too much on property tax rates to pay their bills.</p><p>&ldquo;The property tax is not based on ability to pay,&rdquo; Quinn told an audience of civic and political leaders earlier this year. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re using a 19th century property tax system to fund the most important part of the 21st century: educating our students.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November gubernatorial election, Bruce Rauner, has said he would veto the bill because of the calls for higher property taxes on Chicago residents. Rauner even went so far as to release automated phone calls, urging residents to call their state representative or senator to vote against the bill while it was being debated in Springfield.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe"><em>Alex Keefe</em></a><em> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics"><em>Twitter</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028"><em>Google+</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 Unions file lawsuit over pension changes http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP92397679629.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A dozen of Illinois&#39; most powerful public employees&rsquo; unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday, challenging the constitutionality of the controversial new state pension overhaul signed into law in December.</p><p dir="ltr">The plaintiff in the long-expected suit is the We Are One Illinois Coalition, which includes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, among others.</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the organized labor groups say they represent 621,000 members.</p><p dir="ltr">At issue is the pension law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn last month. It aims to ease the financial impact of Illinois&rsquo; massive public pension shortfall by scaling back yearly benefit increases and raising retirement ages for younger workers.</p><p dir="ltr">In return, workers would pay slightly less toward their pensions, and advocates say their retirement plans will be more financially secure, even though the pension funds had been shorted by Springfield policy-makers for years.</p><p dir="ltr">But Tuesday&rsquo;s civil complaint argues the new law violates a part of the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo; It also contends that a state employee&rsquo;s pension is a contract, and that the legislation violates the state constitution&rsquo;s Contracts Clause that states no law &ldquo;impairing the obligation of contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The lawsuit goes on to blame current and previous lawmakers for the current state of finances facing Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The State chose to forgo funding its pension systems in amounts the State now claims were needed to fully meet the State&rsquo;s annuity obligations,&rdquo; the lawsuit reads. &ldquo;Now, the State expects the members of those systems to carry on their backs the burden of curing the State&rsquo;s longstanding misconduct.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn&#39;s administration quickly defended the law on Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;The lawsuits come as no surprise,&quot; said Quinn&#39;s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch. &quot;We believe that pension reform is contstitutional and we will defend the interest of taxpayers.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Tuesday&rsquo;s lawsuit comes on the heels of other similar lawsuits that the Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office has asked be consolidated into one case to be heard in Cook County. But the We Are One Illinois coalition filed its case in Sangamon County, home to Springfield, the state Capitol, and thousands of public workers.</p><p dir="ltr">The difference in location could prove significant in the outcome of the case. House Speaker Michael Madigan takes credit for negotiating the compromise and putting the needed votes on the bill for approval. Critics of the law express concerns about whether the suit could come before a Cook County judge who has connections to Madigan, who also serves as the chairman of the state&rsquo;s Democratic Party.</p><p dir="ltr">The case is expected to eventually be argued in front of the Illinois State Supreme Court.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent studies have shown the legislation may not save the state as much money as originally projected. Supporters have said the pension overhaul will save $160 billion over the next 30 years. That number may have been exaggerated, and a report from the University of Illinois projected Illinois will still have a $13 billion deficit 10 years from now even if the pension law takes full effect.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 Morning Shift: Board of Ed gets a look at CPS budget http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-25/morning-shift-board-ed-gets-look-cps-budget-108179 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Desks 2-Flickr- Robert Couse-Baker.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The recent closure of 49 public elementary schools in Chicago has one local group alleging it&#39;s a human rights violation. We learn about the group&#39;s accusations, and talk to CPS&#39; CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett about the district&#39;s budget.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-30.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-30" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Board of Ed gets a look at CPS budget" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Thu, 25 Jul 2013 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-25/morning-shift-board-ed-gets-look-cps-budget-108179 Quinn prepared to call special session on pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-prepared-call-special-session-pensions-107529 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP429581287377_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said he&rsquo;s ready to call a special session. That&rsquo;s after lawmakers failed to pass a pension plan last week. But first, the governor says he wants leaders to work out an agreement first.</p><p>Quinn and Senate President John Cullerton met Tuesday morning to discuss the state&rsquo;s pension system. Missing from the meeting, was House Speaker Michael Madigan. Quinn said Madigan was unavailable and unreachable because he doesn&rsquo;t carry a cell phone.</p><p>The governor said he wasn&rsquo;t frustrated by the speaker&rsquo;s absence, but focused on solving the pension problem.</p><p>Last week, Madigan had made remarks that a lack of leadership in the Senate is one reason why there is no solution to the state&rsquo;s nearly $100 billion pension liability. Before adjourning, Cullerton looked straight at Madigan when expressing his disappointment at the lack of movement on pensions.</p><p>The governor says for things to move, Madigan and Cullerton need to get past personal differences.</p><p>&ldquo;On Friday, John Cullerton and Michael Madigan in the House of Representatives working together for a pension holiday for the city of Chicago. So if they can work for a pension holiday, they can work for pension reform for the people of Illinois,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a legislative bid to secure a 2 year break from making pension payment to the Chicago Public Schools retirement fund.</p><p>Quinn said he wouldn&rsquo;t sign off on that bill if a statewide pension plan wasn&rsquo;t in place first.</p><p>On Monday, Fitch Ratings downgraded the state&rsquo;s bond rating. Illinois has the lowest general obligation bond rating of any state.</p><p>Quinn says that will continue if a pension plan isn&rsquo;t approved.</p><p><em>Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/soosiean">@soosiean</a></em></p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 14:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-prepared-call-special-session-pensions-107529 'Squeezy' pension video viewed 20,000 times http://www.wbez.org/news/squeezy-pension-video-viewed-20000-times-104071 <p><p>Officials say Gov. Pat Quinn&#39;s online pension reform campaign with its cartoon snake mascot has attracted more than 28,000 unique visitors.</p><p>He launched the <a href="http://thisismyillinois.com/" target="_blank">website</a> this month, billing it as a way to rally the public around a pension overhaul since lawmakers haven&#39;t come up with a plan.</p><p>The site has been criticized for its lighthearted approach, including images of the orange serpent, &quot;Squeezy the Pension Python.&quot; The Democrat&#39;s office says a video with the cartoon has been viewed 20,000 times.</p><p>The campaign involves Facebook and Twitter pages.</p><p>On Tuesday, Quinn unveiled a video with educator Salman Khan. He runs a nonprofit academy and has developed thousands of online tutorials.</p><p>Illinois has the nation&#39;s worst pension problem with a more than $85 billion funding gap.</p></p> Wed, 28 Nov 2012 12:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/squeezy-pension-video-viewed-20000-times-104071 Illinois governor wants pension reform by Jan. 9 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-governor-wants-pension-reform-jan-9-103774 <p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn says he&#39;s looking forward to accomplishing pension reform by Jan. 9 with bipartisan cooperation and before a new Legislature is sworn in.</p><p>The governor spoke to reporters Friday in Chicago after launching a new statewide public-private partnership to improve services for veterans.</p><p>Quinn says an overhaul of the state&#39;s employee retirement system is needed so there will be adequate resources for schools, public safety and veterans&#39; programs.</p><p>He says Tuesday&#39;s election results show that voters across the country want to see Democrats and Republicans work together.</p><p>Democrats won larger majorities in the Legislature in Tuesday&#39;s election, giving them veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate. That could reduce the governor&#39;s role in negotiations. Quinn says he&#39;s not concerned about that.</p></p> Fri, 09 Nov 2012 11:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-governor-wants-pension-reform-jan-9-103774 Kirk releases first video on policy since his stroke http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-releases-first-video-policy-his-stroke-102500 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kirk_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/9okBKA76Z1k" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9okBKA76Z1k">released a video</a> about the recent downgrade of the state&rsquo;s credit rating.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s the first video the Republican senator has released that isn&rsquo;t about his recovery from the stroke he suffered earlier this year.</p><p>Kirk&rsquo;s office has put on the internet produced videos of the senator&rsquo;s recovery showing him walking on a treadmill or talking with doctors.</p><p>His most recent video, however, had a much different tone.</p><p>&quot;The issue of pension reform continues to be a dark cloud over Springfield,&quot; a television news broadcaster is heard saying on the video with ominous music playing in the background.</p><p>The intensely grim minute-and-a-half-long video takes issue with Illinois&rsquo; recent credit downgrade, since legislators haven&rsquo;t voted on the state&rsquo;s vastly unfunded pension obligation.</p><p>At the end of the video, Kirk appears in an office and talks to the camera.</p><p>&quot;Everyone inside the borders of Illinois is disadvantaged by these higher interest costs because of poor debt management by our state,&quot; he said.</p><p>Meantime,&nbsp;Kirk&rsquo;s fellow Illinois U.S. Senator, Democrat Dick Durbin, said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday that he talks regularly with Kirk, but hasn&#39;t seen him in person. Durbin said Kirk is champing at the bit to get back to the Senate.</p><p>Kirk has not appeared in public since his stroke in January.</p></p> Tue, 18 Sep 2012 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-releases-first-video-policy-his-stroke-102500 Investigation zeros in on Illinois' community college pension system http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/Andy_Shaw_BGA.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Another issue hung over the state's head is its pensions; more money was promised than available to distribute. But, a new investigation from the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/" target="_blank">Better Government Association</a> took a closer look at one group that continued to make out nicely upon retirement. The BGA’s president and CEO<a href="http://www.bettergov.org/about/staff.aspx" target="_blank"> Andy Shaw</a> told <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> more about the investigation.</p><p><em>Music Button: Ocote Soul Sounds, "Pirata", from the CD Taurus, (ESL)</em></p></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 14:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-08/investigation-zeros-illinois-community-college-pension-system-91660 Mark Kirk says Blagojevich doesn't deserve pension http://www.wbez.org/story/mark-kirk-says-blagojevich-doesnt-deserve-pension-87787 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Ap kirk.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Jurors in the corruption retrial of Rod Blagojevich are continuing to deliberate and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is using the occasion to promote legislation he's introducing.</p><p>Kirk's proposed bill targets members of Congress who are convicted on corruption charges, even if those crimes take place after they leave Washington. Kirk pointed to Rod Blagojevich as a good example for how the legislation would work. Blagojevich served six years in the U.S. Congress, representing Chicago's North Side. Later, while governor, he was charged and convicted of lying to federal agents.</p><p>Kirk said Blagojevich shouldn't be rewarded with a pension for his time as a Congressman.</p><p>"Once you have violated the public trust in that way, I think that the taxpayers should not be supporting your retirement," Kirk said.</p><p>Kirk estimates Blagojevich makes several thousand dollars a year from his Congressional pension. The proposed measure wouldn't apply retroactively to Blagojevich.</p><p>Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., is sponsoring a similar bill in the House.</p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 20:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/mark-kirk-says-blagojevich-doesnt-deserve-pension-87787 Investors snap up $3.7 billion in Illinois bonds http://www.wbez.org/story/bonds/investors-snap-37-billion-illinois-bonds <p><p>Illinois officials say this week&rsquo;s bond sale went better than expected, but traders say the state is still paying a higher interest rate than any other state in the country.</p><p>Illinois bonds are rated the worst in the country by Moody&rsquo;s &ndash; reflecting the state&rsquo;s inability to pay its bills and its big pension shortfall.</p><p>But that didn&rsquo;t stop investors from snapping up $3.7 billion worth of bonds yesterday.</p><p>John Sinsheimer is director of capital markets for Illinois. He says investors were reassured by the state&rsquo;s recent income tax hike, but that&rsquo;s not enough.</p><p>&quot;Their concerns were really focused on can we keep the momentum that we&rsquo;ve got right now, can we keep that going forward and of course we believe that we can,&quot; Sinsheimer said.</p><p>Sinsheimer says the bonds will pay on average almost three percentage points more than equivalent U.S. Treasury bonds. He says it&rsquo;s a little better than Illinois officials expected just a few weeks ago. <br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/bonds/investors-snap-37-billion-illinois-bonds