WBEZ | pensions http://www.wbez.org/tags/pensions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: Local Food Movement http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-18/morning-shift-local-food-movement-111716 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jamie%20McCaffrey_0.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/Jamie McCaffrey" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500337&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Schock resignation and pensions explainer</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">It&rsquo;s been made pretty clear by various parties that the number one issue facing Chicago in this mayoral runoff election is the city&rsquo;s looming $500M pension payment. Chicago faces some dire consequences if the money is not available when the bill comes due. WBEZ political reporters Lauren Chooljian and Tony Arnold explain how Chicago got to this point and some of the remedies being proposed by the candidates, the legislature and others. Also, we discuss life in Congress after the resignation announcement of IL Rep. Aaron Schock.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guests:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">Lauren Chooljian</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">Tony Arnold</a> are WBEZ reporters.</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500334&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></div><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Mayoral candidates answer questions from the Better Government Association</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">The Better Government Association posed a <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/action_policy/2015_chicago_mayoral_runoff_election.aspx">series of questions</a> to Chicago&rsquo;s mayoral candidates. They received answers on a range of topics from government transparency and the city&rsquo;s finances, to public safety and more. Bob Reed of the BGA runs through some of the most interesting responses with the Morning Shift before the document goes public.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/bobreedbga">Bob Reed</a>&nbsp;is the Director of Programming for the <a href="http://www.bettergov.org/">Better Government Association.</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500330&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Food Wednesday: Local Food Movement</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">In the past decade we&rsquo;ve heard a lot about local food and have seen an exponential increase in farmers markets. But where does it go from here? Are there enough local farmers to supply the need? And how does a small family farm get its products into this market. With us today is Jim Slama, President and Founder of the Good Food Festival, which runs through this weekend for consumers, but kicks off its financing and innovation fair Thursday with a trade show on Friday.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong>Jim Slama is the founder of the <a href="https://twitter.com/GoodFoodFestChi">Good Food Festival</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/FamilyFarmed">Family Farmed.org</a></em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/196500324&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Reclaimed Soul</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Reclaimed Soul host Ayana Contreras shares music from a few of her favorite groups that straddled the line between rock and soul.&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><em><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/ReclaimedSoul">Ayana Contreras</a> hosts Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-03-18/morning-shift-local-food-movement-111716 Illinois Supreme Court to hear arguments on pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hear-arguments-pension-law-111681 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Illinois_Supreme_Court.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of a new state law that would reduce retirement benefits for state employees. At stake is Illinois&rsquo; unpaid pension obligations, which have risen to above $100 billion, in addition to the pension benefits that individual state employees&rsquo; say that they&rsquo;ve been promised through their years of work.</p><p>The lawsuits that were filed against the state come from labor unions representing a range of their members, from suburban and downstate teachers and employees of universities, to cashiers for the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office and state prison correctional officers.</p><p>They say they&rsquo;re protected by the state constitution from the cuts that were approved by a bipartisan mix of lawmakers and that was signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. Arguments at Wednesday&rsquo;s Supreme Court hearing are likely to be a high level of legal discourse.</p><p>Here is a short breakdown of the issues presented so far.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The stakes</span></p><p>The State of Illinois owes more than $100 billion in pension debt. Money from an increase in the statewide income tax rate had been used to make some pension payments, but that tax rate dropped in January with the election of Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said the state&rsquo;s taxes are too high.</p><p>Many other local governments within Illinois are closely watching how the Supreme Court rules on the statewide pension question. State lawmakers granted the City of Chicago the ability to change retirement benefits for workers and laborers for the city. The city has stalled, changing the benefits to other pension funds.</p><p>Many of Chicago&rsquo;s suburbs are also watching the Supreme Court&rsquo;s ruling as they also look toward restructuring retirement benefits for their police officers, firefighters and other municipal employees.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The argument <em>for</em> the pension law</span></p><p>The Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office has been defending the pension law in court. Attorneys there have argued that although the state pensions have been underfunded for years, the debt is now so large that it puts the government funding of schools, public healthcare and road construction at risk.</p><p>They argue fundamental functions of state government could not be funded without changes to pension benefits for state employees.</p><p>The Attorney General has also said that the pension costs are continuing to increase. For example, they say in court documents that in 1999, the pension fund for suburban and downstate teachers had nearly $11 billion in unfunded liabilities. By 2013, that debt had increased to $55.7 billion.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The argument <em>against</em> the pension law</span></p><p>Labor unions say the constitution is on their side because it says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>According to court filings, attorneys for the unions say the politicians running Illinois state government chose not to fully fund the pensions for decades, and now &ldquo;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>Individual employees affected by these pension changes, from teachers to child protection investigators, listed their expected annual pension upon retirement, and have calculated an estimated amount of retirement income they&rsquo;d lose if the law stands. Among some state employees, that number reaches the hundreds of thousands of dollars.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Previous court ruling on the pension law</span></p><p>The unions won round one in court. Sangamon County Judge John Belz said in a written opinion:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits. Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Attorneys were able to expedite the case to the state Supreme Court.</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">Tony Arnold</a> is WBEZ&#39;s state politics reporter. </em></p></p> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-supreme-court-hear-arguments-pension-law-111681 Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 Labor unions celebrate judge's ruling against Illinois pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/springfield_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An Illinois judge has ruled unconstitutional a controversial plan to reduce state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits.<br /><br />Labor groups sued the State of Illinois for passing a bill reducing their members&rsquo; pension benefits. The unions representing downstate and suburban teachers, university employees and most other state workers argued the state constitution says, specifically, that retirement benefits can&rsquo;t be diminished. On Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz agreed.</p><p>Belz quoted directly from the state constitution in his six-page decision, citing the passage that states retirement benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or repaired.&rdquo; He singled out components of the bill that narrowly passed the state legislature last year to explain why he was ruling against the state. For instance, the law changed cost-of-living increases certain employees receive in retirement, and put a cap on some employees&rsquo; pensionable salary.</p><p>&ldquo;The State of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits,&rdquo; Belz wrote in his decision. &ldquo;Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the State of Illinois cannot break this promise.&rdquo;</p><p>Labor unions representing employees who are in those retirement systems celebrated the decision.</p><p>&ldquo;The court granted us everything. The court saw it our way,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;This is an unambiguous, unequivocal victory for the constitution and for working people.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Retirees who earned their modest security in retirement, they always paid their share. And they should not be punished for the failures of politicians,&rdquo; said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the We Are One Coalition, a group of labor unions.</p><p>Attorneys who defended the bill acknowledged that it reduced benefits, but argued it is needed to deal with a $105 billion unfunded pension liability. Studies have shown that massive debt tied to Illinois&rsquo; retirement payments is the worst of any state in the country.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn, and those who supported the legislation, argue basic functions of state government are in danger if the pension law is found to be unconstitutional.</p><p>&ldquo;This historic pension reform law eliminates the state&rsquo;s unfunded liability and fully stabilizes the systems to ensure retirement security for employees who have faithfully contributed to them,&rdquo; Quinn said in a statement.</p><p>The Democratic governor was defeated in this month&rsquo;s election by Republican Bruce Rauner, who also released a statement asking the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court to take up the case as soon as possible.</p><p>The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is defending the law in court. Her office said Friday that it will ask the state Supreme Court to expedite an appeal &ldquo;given the significant impact that a final decision in this case will have on the state&rsquo;s fiscal condition.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton is considering a plan, in case the state Supreme Court agrees with Judge Belz and throws out the law. Cullerton had pushed for a separate pension proposal that would ask employees to choose between earning state-funded health care coverage in retirement or receiving pay increases.</p><p>&ldquo;If they throw it out, we&rsquo;ll be back to square one and then we go back again to the alternative that already passed the Senate and when that passes, save some money that we can then pass on to education funding and whatever else we want to utilize that savings,&rdquo; Cullerton said Friday.</p><p>Legislators would have to re-visit Cullerton&rsquo;s proposal in a new General Assembly, after January&rsquo;s inauguration.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-unions-celebrate-judges-ruling-against-illinois-pension-law-111148 Preckwinkle gets her pension plan past Senate, stops short of calling for higher taxes http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-gets-her-pension-plan-past-senate-stops-short-calling-higher-taxes-110240 <p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wouldn&rsquo;t rule out higher taxes to help pay for changes to her employees&rsquo; retirement benefits in making her pitch to Illinois state senators Tuesday.</p><p>Preckwinkle needs the okay from Illinois lawmakers to cut retirement benefits for the county&rsquo;s pension funds. She estimates that if nothing is done to the retirement benefits, the funds will be tapped dry within 25 years.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to be very creative about making government very efficient just as we have for the last three and a half years,&rdquo; Preckwinkle told a state senate committee in addressing how she plans to pay for the pension changes. &ldquo;But everything is going to be on the table.&rdquo;</p><p>Preckwinkle has rolled back an unpopular sales tax increase in Cook County since she was elected in 2010.</p><p>State senators quickly approved her plan, which was negotiated with some labor groups representing county employees. Those negotiations flipped a handful of state senators who had voted against previous pension benefit-reducing measures for state or City of Chicago employees. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson said she thought the pension bills facing state employees was unconstitutional.</p><p>Preckwinkle&rsquo;s plan still needs approval from the House of Representatives.</p><p>It calls for a combination of increased employee contributions beginning in 2015, a phased-in increase in the retirement age, and delays cost of living adjustments for future retirees.</p><p>The plan passed with largely Democratic support over the objections of labor groups like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as some Republicans.</p><p>AFSCME spokesman John Cameron told state senators Preckwinkle should wait to see how a lawsuit over similar changes to state employees pensions turns out before pushing her own pension reform plan.</p><p>&ldquo;The county is not in the dire situation that either the state or the city found themselves. We disagreed with those proposals, but we particularly feel that this is not ready for prime time,&rdquo; Cameron said.</p><p>Meantime, State Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said he feared Preckwinkle would have to raise property taxes down the road to pay for her plan, unless she were willing to make even deeper cuts to county employees&rsquo; retirements. Despite his no vote, Murphy complimented Preckwinkle on her work as board president in a moment of levity during the committee discussion.</p><p>&ldquo;I have enjoyed our working relationship thus far. It is a substantial change from the way things were before you took office,&rdquo; Murphy said to Preckwinkle, referring to her predecessor, Todd Stroger.</p><p>&ldquo;The bar was pretty low,&rdquo; Preckwinkle quipped back.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @<a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 28 May 2014 09:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-gets-her-pension-plan-past-senate-stops-short-calling-higher-taxes-110240 Chicago Teachers Union: New taxes to fix pensions--but not higher property taxes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-new-taxes-fix-pensions-not-higher-property-taxes-110120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/karen lewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union is rolling out a plan they say will help solve the teachers pension crisis. CTU leaders say their proposals would raise much-needed money for the cash-strapped retirement fund that covers the city&#39;s educators. The fund is just under 50 percent funded.</p><p>Speaking to WBEZ Thursday, CTU head Karen Lewis said cutting benefits for retired schoolteachers is &quot;unconscionable,&quot; and that cannot be the answer to pension woes. Instead, she said, the union is suggesting ways to raise more revenue. A Chicago Public Schools spokesman called those ideas &quot;not a responsible solution.&quot; &nbsp;</p><p>CTU wants the city and state to adopt three proposals that it says could bring in billions of dollars that could be devoted toward retirement accounts:</p><ul><li>A so-called<strong> &ldquo;LaSalle Street Tax&rdquo;</strong> would impose new taxes on financial transactions at the CME Group and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The Chicago Teachers Union wants a dollar tax on the trading of agriculture futures and two dollars on other derivatives. In addition to raising money, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the tax could help curb high-frequency trading, which has come under fire lately. &ldquo;Derivative trading is a problem at its current level,&rdquo; Sharkey said. &ldquo;These are trades that don&rsquo;t produce value. These are not long-term investments of the kind your grandmother might have in her stock portfolio.&rdquo; Sharkey estimates the new tax could bring in $10-$12 billion a year.</li><li>A <strong>commuter tax</strong> on those who work in Chicago but live outside the city. Sharkey suggested the tax could be administered through the payrolls of companies in Chicago with employees who live outside the city. Sharkey said an alternative way to implement the tax would be as a regional income tax surcharge affecting cities surrounding Chicago. He said the cash generated from this plan could be shared between Chicago and the communities affected. Sharkey did not have an estimate for how much money this tax could generate.</li><li>A delay on the expiration of some <strong>tax increment financing (TIF) districts</strong>. TIF districts are special zones of the city that divert tax money into economic development projects. Critics, including those in the Chicago Teachers Union, have ridiculed the mayor&rsquo;s use of TIF districts, saying they amount to personal slush funds. &ldquo;You could take a lot of bad debt off the books by making a bond that would put the school system in better shape financially by using TIF money that would actually help serve the intended purposes of the taxation authority the schools have,&rdquo; Sharkey said. The teachers union estimates more than a billion dollars in bonds could be generated from this idea</li></ul><p>The Chicago Teachers Union said Chicago should inject $5 billion into the pension fund immediately by floating municipal or pension obligation bonds. The new &quot;LaSalle Street&quot; tax, commuter tax, and TIF revenues would then go to pay off those bonds. The refinancing scheme would save $3 billion by 2059, said a consultant for the union. Sharkey says the money from the TIF districts could be used to pay off bonds, which would be used to pay down the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund&rsquo;s $9 billion in unfunded liabilities.The union also opposed any more property tax increases to help fund the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.</p><p>Last year, Illinois lawmakers approved legislation that would cut teacher pension benefits as a way to help reduce the state&rsquo;s $100 billion pension obligation. The legislation is the subject of a lawsuit filed by unions representing state workers.</p><p>Now, lawmakers have turned their attention toward Chicago city workers. Last month, they passed a bill changing the pension benefits of city municipal and laborers. That legislation still needs the approval of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who hasn&rsquo;t said whether he&rsquo;ll sign the bill or not.</p><p>Lewis said she&rsquo;d oppose a similar pension plan that would affect teachers, if one were to be proposed.</p><p>&ldquo;If we&rsquo;re talking about benefit changes without some sort of revenue, then we are just basically cutting our own throats and we will not do that at this moment,&rdquo; Lewis said.</p><p>Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s hesitance to sign the legislation affecting the retirements of city laborers and municipal workers comes in part from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has said he&rsquo;d pay for those pension bills by increasing property taxes in the city.</p><p>Lewis made a point to say the teachers pension fund&rsquo;s financial problems stem from the Chicago Board of Education&rsquo;s refusal to put money into the system for years, not from exorbitant benefits for teachers. She said she&rsquo;s not convinced raising retirement ages, increasing employee contributions to the retirement fund or reducing cost of living adjustments would fix the hole in the pension fund.</p><p>&ldquo;We are concerned that they&rsquo;re not done,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;If we continue to give, give, give and make huge concessions, when does it all end? Til when we have no pensions?&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman dismissed the union&#39;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re glad that CTU is putting forth ideas on how to solve our pension crisis, but borrowing $5 billion and raising taxes by a record amount to prop up the pension fund is not a responsible solution,&quot; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &quot;Any conversation about pension reform must start with legislative action in Springfield, moving toward reforms similar to those which now apply to 80 percent of teachers in Illinois.&quot; &nbsp;</p><p><em>WBEZ&#39;s Linda Lutton and Alex Keefe contributed to this story.</em></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-4a3f3ef8-b99a-c33a-1cd4-5c280d4472d9"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton covers education for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@wbezeducation</a>.</em></p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 01 May 2014 16:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-union-new-taxes-fix-pensions-not-higher-property-taxes-110120 Illinois state income tax could help city pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-state-income-tax-could-help-city-pensions-110088 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP319847883196.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says he favors giving Illinois cities a larger share of income tax revenues to help solve the municipal pension problem.</p><p>The idea previewed Monday before the City Club of Chicago is part of the Chicago Democrat&#39;s pitch to extend the 2011 income tax increase. It rolls back in January, leaving an estimated $1.6 billion revenue hole. Quinn&#39;s budget plan proposes an extension to avoid budget cuts.</p><p>Municipalities statewide have pushed for legislative help for underfunded pensions. Mayors say costs have risen, pension obligations are crowding out spending for other services and raising property taxes may be the answer. Quinn&#39;s against raising property taxes.</p><p>Lawmakers approved a plan for two Chicago pension systems that indirectly could mean a property tax increase. Quinn won&#39;t say if he&#39;ll sign it.</p></p> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 16:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-state-income-tax-could-help-city-pensions-110088 Chicago teachers become students in Illinois politics http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-become-students-illinois-politics-110082 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/CTPF.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago teachers have been getting lessons in Illinois politics in recent weeks.</p><p>While state lawmakers have been away from Springfield for a short break, teachers in the city have been turning the tables. They&rsquo;ve been getting a lesson in history, civics and, separate from civics, politics.</p><p>A group of current and retired teachers sat for a three-hour tutorial on how their pension is funded, why it&#39;s now so underfunded and what they can do about it.</p><p>Lesson number one: start calling state lawmakers. After they figured out who the leaders in Springfield even are, Bukola Bello, the lobbyist in Springfield for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, told the teachers which politicians they should be calling.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an election year. Everyone gets that,&rdquo; Bello said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an election year and because you have certain pressures from the mayor, certain individuals need more education than others. Wink wink.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Pension Fund is separate from the Chicago Teachers Union, although most union members get their retirement through it. And the pension fund is separate from the government, even though the public officials are the ones cutting the checks. That means the pension fund is stuck in the middle between the two sides that have been battling with each other about cutting retirement benefits.</p><p>During the training session, Bello kept reminding her students, the teachers, of this lesson in politics.</p><p>&ldquo;Legislators are our friends. Why are legislators our friends? Because ultimately we need something from them. We need their support. We need a vote. We need them to protect your pensions,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago teachers pensions are coming up on his lesson plan so the city&rsquo;s finances can be stabilized.</p><p>But Kevin Huber, who heads the pension fund, says something else should happen first. He&rsquo;s advocating for setting aside a tax levy so taxes go straight toward teacher&rsquo;s pensions and not to the board of education, which distributes the cash. He also said the Chicago Board of Education should contribute to the pension fund monthly, not annually.</p><p>Huber said he&rsquo;s training teachers how to talk to their lawmakers because they mean more to representatives than he does.<br />&ldquo;When we get the actual voters, they&rsquo;re more receptive,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Again, I can get meetings with all these people and I do, but they care about the vote.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, the governor and state lawmakers approved changes to state employees&rsquo; retirement benefits to save the government money, including suburban and downstate teachers. Unions representing those workers have sued over the plan, saying it hurts employees so much, it&rsquo;s unconstitutional. The lawsuit is still in court.</p><p>Dick Ingram, who runs the Teachers Retirement System for those teachers, said while those bills were being negotiated, he had to stay out of the back-and-forth between the unions and the lawmakers and just make sure money was still coming into the system.</p><p>&ldquo;We were gonna go broke unless there were changes made,&rdquo; Ingram said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not in the business of suggesting what those changes might be, but we can certainly help explain what the impact of proposed legislation would be.&rdquo;</p><p>Meantime, Debra McGhee, who sat through the three-hour training program at the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund and is retired from Bouchet International Academy in Chicago&rsquo;s South Shore neighborhood, was ready to tell her story to her representative.</p><p>&ldquo;We worked for this. This is ours and now you&rsquo;re talking about taking it away. We contributed (to) this. We didn&rsquo;t miss a payment,&rdquo; McGhee said. &ldquo;But you guys skipped out on where you&rsquo;re supposed to be. So now we&rsquo;re worried and we have to do something to try to put this back intact.&rdquo;</p><p>McGhee said she&rsquo;s nervous she&rsquo;ll be retiring at the poverty line because of benefit cuts. Her training session came as pension funds representing Chicago teachers, firefighters and police officers wait and see whether Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension bills sitting on his desk affecting other groups of Chicago city workers. Quinn has not said whether he will sign that legislation into law, but he&rsquo;s been critical of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel saying he&rsquo;d have to raise property taxes in the city to help pay for pensions.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 28 Apr 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-teachers-become-students-illinois-politics-110082 Morning Shift: Examining politicians' self-made narrative http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-09/morning-shift-examining-politicians-self-made <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cover boots Flickr wormwould.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Politicians love reminding voters of their humble beginnings. We dissect the &quot;bootstrap&quot; narrative. We also hear about Norse mythology from an unlikely source.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-examining-the-bootstrap-narrative/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-examining-the-bootstrap-narrative.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-examining-the-bootstrap-narrative" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Examining politicians' self-made narrative" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 08:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-09/morning-shift-examining-politicians-self-made Morning Shift: Artists work overtime to follow their dreams http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-22/morning-shift-artists-work-overtime-follow-their <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr Muffet.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at the social barriers to accessing reproductive health services. And, we talk to the director of a film following people following their passions.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-artists-in-the-workforce-work-overti/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-artists-in-the-workforce-work-overti.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-artists-in-the-workforce-work-overti" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Artists work overtime to follow their dreams" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 22 Jan 2014 08:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-22/morning-shift-artists-work-overtime-follow-their