WBEZ | pensions http://www.wbez.org/tags/pensions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Emanuel, Rauner in war of words http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-rauner-war-words-113563 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are turning up their heated political rhetoric against one another.</p><div style="text-align: justify;">The two have been in a public war of words recently, as each politician tries to get something from the other.</div><p style="text-align: justify;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_720580042438.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 310px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)" /></p><div style="text-align: justify;">Emanuel has promised Chicagoans relief on property taxes, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-springfield-lawmakers-%E2%80%9Chave-to%E2%80%9D-break-stalemate-help-chicago-113486" target="_blank">he needs state lawmakers&rsquo; help</a>.</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">His plan includes protections for residents whose homes are worth less than $250,000, and a doubling of the homeowners exemption, two things that can only be done in Springfield.</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">Emanuel also wants Rauner to sign off on a measure changing how the financially-struggling police and firefighters&rsquo; pensions are funded.</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">Rauner meanwhile has said he wants Emanuel to sign off on&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">some of his priorities, including limits to collective bargaining.&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">Emanuel and Rauner, who are friends privately, have gone back and forth publicly for weeks, but on Wednesday and Thursday, they cranked up the heat.&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very strange economic strategy to try and hurt your economic engine, that&rsquo;s how you&rsquo;re gonna grow the economy,&rdquo; Emanuel told reporters Wednesday. &ldquo;Let me ask it this way, to all of you: Name me a governor in the other 49 states that is attacking the economic engine of their state. Is the gov of Washington state going after Seattle? Is the Gov of Oregon going after Portland?&rdquo;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/%E2%80%98trust-issues%E2%80%99-springfield-have-aldermen-looking-property-tax-relief-plan-b-113491" target="_blank">RELATED:&nbsp;&lsquo;Trust issues&rsquo; with Springfield have aldermen looking for property tax relief plan B</a></div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP_963329869976_0.jpg" style="text-align: justify; height: 232px; width: 310px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)" /></p><div style="text-align: justify;">Rauner spokesman Mike Schimpf, sent an email to reporters in response:</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;It&#39;s clear that less than 24 hours after passing the largest property tax hike in city history, the mayor is already laying the groundwork for another tax hike because he is refusing to engage in passing structural reforms that will save Chicago taxpayer (sic) hundreds of millions of dollars,&rdquo; Schrimpf said.</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&ldquo;The mayor needs to get serious about whether he is going to be a reformer or just another tax-and-spend politician who wants to blame someone else for their failures.&quot;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: justify;"><em>Tony Arnold and Lauren Chooljian cover politics for WBEZ. Follow them at <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a> and<a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank"> @laurenchooljian.</a></em></div><div style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 29 Oct 2015 17:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-rauner-war-words-113563 Emanuel pushes budget with 'political risk' http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-budget-political-risk-113034 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_471755110302_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel budget proposal leaves aldermen to consider if their constituents can afford a more expensive Chicago.</p><p>Emanuel sold his budget to aldermen Tuesday as &ldquo;tough,&rdquo; and a plan that carries &ldquo;political risk.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But there is a choice to be made,&rdquo; Emanuel explained, &ldquo;either we muster the political courage to deal with this mounting challenge or we repeat the same practices and allow the financial challenges to grow,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">The 2016 budget proposal contains many of the details the mayor&rsquo;s office leaked out in the weeks leading up to the address: Nearly $600 million in property tax hikes for police and fire pensions and school construction, and a $9.50 monthly garbage collection fee for small apartment buildings and single family homes. It also contains $170 million in savings and efficiencies, like eliminating vacant city positions, according to estimates from the mayor&rsquo;s office. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">During his fifth budget address as mayor, Emanuel used familiar rhetoric to paint Chicago as a thriving, innovative city, whose bright future could be dimmed unless aldermen make some politically courageous decisions.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Now is the time, this is the council, let us commit to finishing the job,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">Without property tax revenue for police and fire pensions, Emanuel said the city would have to cut needed city services like recycling, and layoff thousands of police and firefighters.</p><p dir="ltr">But while some aldermen contend the budget shouldn&rsquo;t be described as an either or situation, many council members are still unsure as to if they&rsquo;ll support one, or all of, the mayor&rsquo;s budget proposals.</p><p dir="ltr">Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6) said he was on board with the mayor&rsquo;s plan to increase property taxes, adding that he had hoped the city would have increased them earlier, and incrementally.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;m confident that my constituents will understand, I mean [there&rsquo;s] a difference between understanding and being happy, they&rsquo;re not gonna be happy about it, but they will understand and acknowledge that we have to right a financial ship that&rsquo;s been going awry for many, many years now,&rdquo; Sawyer said.</p><p dir="ltr">But whether this vote would leave aldermen with a positive legacy in the history books, as Emanuel expressed, was up for debate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s great rhetoric for him,&rdquo; said Ald. John Arena (45). &ldquo;But I guarantee if I were to vote for this, and in four years decide to run for mayor, then there would be mailers just like he threw at his challenger this time.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 20:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-budget-political-risk-113034 Emanuel calls for nearly $600 million property tax hike http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-calls-nearly-600-million-property-tax-hike-113019 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_471755110302_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will ask aldermen Tuesday to sign onto a nearly $600 million property tax hike.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s office confirmed Monday that the mayor will propose a $544 million increase that would go toward the city&rsquo;s severely underfunded police and fire pension fund. That&rsquo;s on top of an additional $45 million property tax increase for school construction the mayor is asking the city council to support.</p><p>&ldquo;On so many fronts, Chicago has made great progress by challenging the status quote,&rdquo; Emanuel said in a statement. &ldquo;But as we continue to grow our economy, create jobs and attract families and business to Chicago, our fiscal challenges are blocking our path to even greater success.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Emanuel&rsquo;s solution to those challenges will include:</strong></p><p>&mdash;A phased-in property tax increase starting in 2015 and going through 2018. The mayor&rsquo;s office says these funds would only be used for police and fire pensions. Technically, homeowners would pay the first increase next summer, on the 2nd installment of their tax bill for 2015. Here&rsquo;s the breakdown of the proposed increases per tax year:</p><ul><li>2015&nbsp;&nbsp; $318 million</li><li>2016&nbsp;&nbsp; $109 million</li><li>2017&nbsp;&nbsp; $53 million</li><li>2018&nbsp;&nbsp; $63 million</li></ul><p>&mdash;An expanded homeowners&rsquo; exemption to ease the pain. The mayor has been working with the Democratic leadership in Springfield to expand the tax exemption, which would allow any resident with a home valued at $250,000 or less to be exempt from paying additional property taxes for police and fire pensions.</p><p>&mdash;The &ldquo;School Modernization Property Tax Levy&rdquo; being considered by the city council this week, which CPS has already voted to approve. The mayor&rsquo;s office says the additional $45 million would be used to help overcrowded schools, install air-conditioning in every classroom and other capital repairs.</p><p>&mdash;Taxing e-cigarettes: 25 cents per milliliter of e-liquid and $1.25 per container of e-liquid. A &ldquo;container&rdquo; includes single-use e-cigarettes, replacement cartridges or bottles of e-liquid. This is estimated to generate $1 million in revenue in 2016.</p><p>&mdash;A $9.50 monthly fee for garbage pickup, though seniors on a &ldquo;limited budget&rdquo; would be eligible for a 50 percent discount</p><p>&mdash;Allowing ride-sharing companies to pickup and drop off customers at both airports, Navy Pier and McCormick place, if they pay a $5 surcharge to the city. The mayor is also pitching an increase of &ldquo;per trip&rdquo; fees: rideshare trips will increase from 30 cents per trip to 50 cents, and a 50 cent fee will be added to taxi rides as well. That&rsquo;s estimated to bring in $60 million in 2016, $48 million more than in 2015.</p><p>&mdash;$170 million in savings and reforms, including eliminating 150 vacant positions and putting street sweeping on a grid system.</p><p><strong>In his budget address on Tuesday the mayor is also planning to propose:</strong></p><p>&mdash;Moving 319 police officers out of administrative positions and deployed to the streets.</p><p>&mdash;A $2 million investment over 4 years for new CPS based health clinics</p><p>&mdash;A $500 million investment to replace 90 miles of water lines, 72 miles of sewer lines and installing 14,000 sewer structures and 20,000 water meters</p><p>&mdash;A 15 percent increase on cab fares.<br /><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Sep 2015 18:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-calls-nearly-600-million-property-tax-hike-113019 Chicago makes case to change retirement benefits for city employees http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.39.40 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">City of Chicago laborers and streets and sanitation workers packed a Cook County courtroom Thursday to listen to more than two hours of legal debate about their retirement benefits. The scene mirrored the months of legal disputes over the funding of troubled Illinois state pension funds.</p><p dir="ltr">Stephen Patton, the City of Chicago&rsquo;s top attorney, said the two city funds are likely to become insolvent, if not bankrupt, in the next dozen-or-so years if the judge rules against the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the alternative?&rdquo; Patton asked Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak.</p><p dir="ltr">Patton argued that if the judge strikes down city&rsquo;s pension law approved by Illinois state lawmakers, then labor unions that oppose the pension changes will likely sue in a decade&mdash;when the pension funds will be so depleted, the accounts will have to pay-as-they-go as the bills come in.</p><p>But an attorney for the labor unions argues that changes to pension benefits are a violation of the state constitution&rsquo;s language that says retirement funds can&rsquo;t be diminished or impaired. Clint Krislov said the city&rsquo;s argument that the funds will go insolvent in a decade equates to a Chicken Little &lsquo;the-sky-is-falling&rsquo; defense; and said the retirement funds should&rsquo;ve done more for the past several decades to force the city to put more into the accounts.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the unions on a separate lawsuit involving reductions to state pension funds. That decision was heavily cited by the unions in their arguments. It&rsquo;s also led to political leaders in Springfield to try and agree on a new legal strategy to change retirement benefits for state employees.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 CPS, Emanuel warn of deep cuts, layoffs to school district http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/rahmap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing &ldquo;a grand bargain&rdquo; to fix the financial woes of Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>The proposal cuts $200 million from schools, raises property taxes, asks teachers to pay more into their pensions, and pushes Springfield to increase overall school funding.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody would have to give up something, and nobody would have to give up everything,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposal came as state lawmakers were entertaining a bill from Illinois Senate President John Cullerton that would freeze property taxes and eliminate grants currently promised to CPS in exchange for picking up about $200 million of the cash-strapped school district&rsquo;s &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension costs over the next two years.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union doesn&rsquo;t support Emanuel&rsquo;s plan and also scoffed at his longstanding push to consolidate the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund with the Teachers Retirement System, which includes all suburban and downstate teachers, and is equally underfunded. Currently, Chicago taxpayers pay into both CTPF and TRS, something Emanuel calls &ldquo;inequitable.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Cuts will hit classrooms, special education and start times</span></p><p>Emanuel and CPS officials said schools will start on time this fall, but not without deep cuts.&nbsp;</p><p>District officials are still in the process of developing the budget for next school year, but CPS Interim CEO Jesse Ruiz <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/270216697/CPS-reducing-expenses-by-200-Million" target="_blank">outlined</a> the following cuts they&rsquo;ve already determined they&rsquo;ll make:</p><ul><li>Eliminate 5,300 coaching stipends for elementary school sports. ($3.2 million);</li><li>Change magnet school transportation by having students report to local attendance area school to be picked up. ($2.3 million);</li><li>Shift start times for some high schools back 45 minutes. ($9.2 million);</li><li>Eliminate 200 vacant special education positions. ($14 million);</li><li>Cut startup funding for charters and alternative schools. ($15.8 million);</li><li>Reduce professional development in turnaround schools run by AUSL ($11.6 million).</li></ul><p>&ldquo;In my view, they&rsquo;re intolerable, they&rsquo;re unacceptable and they&rsquo;re totally unconscionable,&rdquo; Emanuel said of the cuts. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re a result of a political system that sprung a leak and now it&rsquo;s a geyser.&rdquo;</p><p>The cuts do not solve the district&rsquo;s pension problems. Late Tuesday, just before the deadline, the school district paid its full pension payment, a hefty sum of $634 million, for 2015. But that payment was only to close out last year&rsquo;s budget. The Emanuel administration has already asked the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to push $500 million of the required 2016 payment to 2017.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Where will the revenue come from?</span></p><p>Chicago Public Schools officials and Emanuel find themselves in the middle of a delicate dance with Springfield: They take every opportunity to blame Springfield for the financial mess the district is in, but at the same time look for lawmakers to bail them out.</p><p>If Springfield doesn&rsquo;t go along with Emanuel&rsquo;s idea to merge all teacher pensions into a single fund, he wants them to contribute the &ldquo;normal&rdquo; pension cost, which amounts to about $200 million annually.</p><p>This portion of his plan coincides with a <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB0316sam001&amp;GA=99&amp;SessionId=88&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=84277&amp;DocNum=0316&amp;GAID=13&amp;Session=" target="_blank">bill</a> that&rsquo;s currently floating around Springfield. Senate President John Cullerton sponsored an amendment that would kick in that annual &ldquo;normal cost,&rdquo; and also freezes property taxes for two years. Cullerton says it&rsquo;s his attempt to compromise with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who&rsquo;s advocated freezing property taxes. The bill would also require the state to create a task force to overhaul Illinois&rsquo; school funding formula.</p><p>Cullerton&rsquo;s bill made it through its first legislative hurdle with only Democratic support, but Cullerton said he&rsquo;d continue working with Republicans to get bipartisan support.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s that thing Chicagoans have been waiting to hear details about: A property tax hike. Emanuel said without Springfield&rsquo;s help on teacher pension funding, he will restore the CPS pension levy to the pre-1995 tax rate of .26 percent. Emanuel estimates that would bring in around $175 million.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t easily go to taxpayers, but part of a solution is you&rsquo;re willing to give up things you don&rsquo;t support, in an effort to get other things you think are essential to a solution,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel said he will also ask teachers to contribute the full 9 percent to cover their own pension costs. He said he will also put the city&rsquo;s block grants on the table, in exchange for the state to increase education funding by up to 25 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">How we got here</span></p><p>These pension problems stem from 15 years of neglect and mismanagement at CPS and the city.</p><p>From 1995 to 2004, CPS did not make a single payment to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, and instead used revenues to pay for operations. From 2011 to 2013, the school district got a &ldquo;pension holiday&rdquo; that temporarily shrunk payments, but didn&rsquo;t make a dent in the unfunded liabilities.</p><p>Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said the district should be &ldquo;front and center taking blame&rdquo; for &ldquo;using the pension system very much like a credit card, running up debt and deferring payment of it until now.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The City of Chicago has known that more money was going to have to go into the pension systems in 2015,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They had four and a half years to plan for it and they did nothing.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel disputes that he&rsquo;s been putting the pension problem off, telling reporters Wednesday that over the past few years, &ldquo;we negotiated with the laborers and municipal fund, we negotiated with police and fire and we negotiated with park district employees and reached pension agreements and passed a number of them...so I would slightly beg to differ the characterization that we were passive.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Martire didn&rsquo;t place all of the blame at the mayor&rsquo;s feet. He said state lawmakers are equally at fault for not contributing to Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions, like they once promised and by generally underfunding public schools.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When you have such significant underfunding from the state, the mayoral administrations and the administrations of the CPS are going to look to beg, borrow and steal,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And just simply write an IOU into the system saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;ll pay you back someday at compounded interest.&rsquo; And someday has arrived.&rdquo;</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold contributed to this story from Springfield.</em></p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">A timeline of CPS pension problems</span></p><p><strong>1981</strong> &ndash; Chicago Board of Education starts picking up 7 percent of the 9 percent employee pension contribution, in exchange for no salary raises.</p><p><strong>1995</strong> &ndash; Illinois General Assembly gives control of the city&rsquo;s public schools to Chicago&rsquo;s mayor and agrees to let CPS manage the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. The dedicated pension levy is eliminated and for 10 years, CPS doesn&rsquo;t pay anything into the Fund, instead using revenue that should have been earmarked for pensions on other things, like operations, new school expansion and staff raises.</p><p><strong>2005</strong> &ndash; Chicago Teachers Pension Fund &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 79 percent.</p><p><strong>2006</strong> &ndash; Board starts making payments into CTPF again.</p><p><strong>2008</strong>&nbsp;&ndash; Stock market crashes, dropping the Fund&rsquo;s &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; even further.</p><p><strong>2010</strong> &ndash; CPS CEO Ron Huberman gets a pension holiday from Springfield. From 2011-2013, CPS is only required to pay $200 million year &ndash; instead of $600 million &ndash; pushing ballooning payments to 2014.</p><p><strong>2012</strong> &ndash; The &ldquo;funded ratio&rdquo; drops to 53.9 percent.</p><p><strong>2014</strong> - $612.7 million payment</p><p><strong>2015</strong> - $634 million payment</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_76159" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/270216697/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-emanuel-warn-deep-cuts-layoffs-school-district-112301 At eleventh hour, CPS makes huge pension payment http://www.wbez.org/news/eleventh-hour-cps-makes-huge-pension-payment-112290 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/madigan_1_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-8f7b37b5-46c0-8279-17ad-1b39333078ba"><em>UPDATED July 1, 7:53 a.m.&nbsp;</em></p><p dir="ltr">The head of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund says Chicago Public Schools deposited the full $634 million into the pension fund Tuesday evening.</p><p>&ldquo;The need for long-term solutions is not erased with this payment,&rdquo; CTPF&rsquo;s executive director Charles Burbridge said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr">But with that payment, according to CPS officials, comes more borrowing and 1,400 layoffs of school district employees.</p><p>Illinois&rsquo; powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan said Tuesday the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools would pay the hundreds of millions of dollars that it owes to teacher pensions by the end of the day.</p><p dir="ltr">The surprise announcement came after CPS had been asking state lawmakers for a short-term reprieve from the massive $634 million payment. Last week, the House of Representatives voted down the district&rsquo;s proposal, even though it had a minority Republican support. At the time, Madigan denied he singularly defeated the proposal, even though he wields influence over many lawmakers.</p><p>On Tuesday, he said that debate was moot, as he&rsquo;d been told by &ldquo;reliable sources&rdquo; that Chicago Public Schools would make the payment, in full.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been advised by reliable sources they have cash on hand and they&rsquo;ll be in a position to make a payment by the end of the business day today,&rdquo; Madigan told reporters.</p><p>As for how the district can make this payment to its pension system and still afford bills in the near-term, Madigan said he doesn&rsquo;t know how that math will work.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There are open questions going forward in terms of paying the bills at the Chicago Board of Education,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In a statement, interim schools CEO Jesse Ruiz criticized Springfield for failing &ldquo;to address Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; financial crisis.&rdquo; Ruiz said CPS was able to make its 2015 pension payment by borrowing money, but they&rsquo;ll also have to make an additional $200 million in cuts. CPS officials said 1,400 jobs - not just teachers - would be impacted Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;As we have said, CPS could not make the payment and keep cuts away from the classroom, so while school will start on time, our classrooms will be impacted,&rdquo; Ruiz said.</p><p>City Hall sources said late Tuesday night that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jesse Ruiz would be presenting a &ldquo;comprehensive plan that includes long-term solutions to the district&rsquo;s pension and funding inequities&rdquo; on Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier in the day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave no indications to reporters in Chicago that CPS was in fact planning to pay the bill in full by the end of the day. However, he did address the impact of the pension payment on the school system&rsquo;s budget.</p><p>&ldquo;School will start, but our ability to hold the impact of finances away from the classroom, that&rsquo;s gonna change,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Springfield lawmakers are set to hear Wednesday about a <a href="http://ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=09900SB0316sam001&amp;GA=99&amp;SessionId=88&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;LegID=84277&amp;DocNum=316&amp;GAID=13&amp;Session=">new</a> proposal that could funnel hundreds of millions of state funds toward CPS pensions.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>. Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/eleventh-hour-cps-makes-huge-pension-payment-112290 Emanuel pushes Springfield for changes to police, fire pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-springfield-changes-police-fire-pensions-112112 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Rahm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long said a property tax increase for Chicago residents is the &ldquo;last resort&rdquo; to cover a scheduled increase in payments owed to the city&rsquo;s cash-strapped police and fire pensions.</p><p>To avoid a hike, he&rsquo;s asking Illinois state legislators to approve changes to the funding schedule for those two retirement funds - in addition to adding future payments to the pensions from a new source of revenue created by a potential new, city-owned casino.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s administration says that a 5-year-old state law forces the city to pay an extra $600 million this year toward its cash-strapped retirement funds for police officers and firefighters.</p><p>Those pensions are severely under-funded, so Emanuel wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would put off those payments for a few years - in exchange for later adding larger payments and putting the pensions on a better funding schedule over the next 40 years, rather than the current 25-year plan.</p><p>Under the extended schedule, the pensions would be funded at 90 percent in 2055, rather than the current rates of around 25 percent funded. If the bill is not passed, said Steve Koch, Emanuel&rsquo;s deputy mayor, then property taxes could skyrocket.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is always a matter of, in this sort of situation, of trying to reach a medium,&rdquo; Koch explained, &ldquo;where you protect the funds, which has been an objective of ours and an objective of the mayor since he took office, and equally protect taxpayers.&rdquo;</p><p>But Republicans criticized Emanuel&rsquo;s plan, saying the mayor&rsquo;s office is in a &ldquo;fantasyland,&rdquo; -- because the bill says it would take money from a Chicago casino, or casinos, to pay for pensions. Casinos that, as of yet, have not been approved by state lawmakers.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re essentially in a fantasyland here, assuming that you&rsquo;re going to get a casino and all the revenue associated with that casino, with us not even seeing a bill that relates to that,&rdquo; said State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton).</p><p>Lawmakers have been negotiating a gambling expansion bill behind closed doors, which could include a city-run casino; but so far a compromise has not been introduced to lawmakers. Koch said that if a casino is not approved, then the city would rely on cuts to city services or increases in fees or revenues to pay for the administration&rsquo;s proposed pension bill.</p><p>Meantime, the union representing Chicago firefighters, support the administration&rsquo;s pension plan, unlike other labor unions raising recent court challenges over previous efforts to change other city and state funds</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been pretty conservative with our benefits over the years, so we don&rsquo;t pull no shenanigans in our fund,&rdquo; said Dan Fabrizio, with the Chicago Firefighters Union.</p><p>The measure was approved by the House and Senate with mostly Democratic support. Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s office has not commented on his position on the bill.</p><p>Tony Arnold is WBEZ&rsquo;s Illinois state politics reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 30 May 2015 11:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-springfield-changes-police-fire-pensions-112112 Illinois lawmakers skeptical about pension deal this spring http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-skeptical-about-pension-deal-spring-112026 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Randy von Liski statehouse.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois lawmakers expressed skepticism Wednesday that they&#39;ll be able to pass a new pension fix this spring, despite pressure from Gov. Bruce Rauner and major credit rating agencies to quickly replace a 2013 overhaul the state Supreme Court struck down.</p><p>The court last week ruled the plan to address Illinois&#39; worst-in-the-nation public-pension shortfall by reducing benefits was unconstitutional, sending lawmakers back to square one on an issue that has dogged them for years.</p><p>On Wednesday, House lawmakers held their first hearing on the Republican governor&#39;s proposed solution, and Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton met to discuss a separate plan Cullerton is floating.</p><p>But Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the Democratic chairwoman of the House pension committee, called the odds of a deal before the session ends May 31 &quot;slim.&quot;</p><p>&quot;You don&#39;t just slap these things together,&quot; said Nekritz, noting that the 2013 deal took years to negotiate.</p><p>Illinois&#39; five public-pension systems are short more than $100 billion of what&#39;s needed to pay out benefits as promised, largely because lawmakers for years didn&#39;t make the state&#39;s contributions. The payments now are taking up roughly one-fifth of the state&#39;s general revenue fund, with next year&#39;s payment reaching about $7 billion.</p><p>Major credit rating agencies already have given Illinois the worst rating of any state in the nation. Moody&#39;s Investors Service this week downgraded to junk bond status the credit rating for the city of Chicago and its public school district, citing the court&#39;s ruling and the city&#39;s own deep pension debt. The agencies also have warned that the ruling puts additional pressure on the state to find a solution.</p><p>Rauner has said approving another overhaul is &quot;essential&quot; and that he believes it can be done before the end of the month.</p><p>He wants to allow state workers and retirees to keep the benefits they&#39;ve already earned but move them to a less-generous plan going forward that he says would save the state $2.2 billion next year. He also wants to put a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would allow future pension benefits to be cut, in hopes of heading off any future lawsuits from labor unions or retirees.</p><p>Cullerton is reviving a plan he floated in 2013, but with some adjustments. His proposal could offer state workers a choice between keeping annual cost-of-living increases in retirement and counting future pay raises when calculating their retirement benefits. His office estimates the plan would save about $1 billion in the first year.</p><p>Both Cullerton and Rauner believe their proposals would be found constitutional, though others have expressed doubt that anything short of raising taxes to keep current benefit levels in place would pass the court&#39;s muster.</p><p>Labor unions, which sued along with retirees and other groups to get the 2013 law thrown out, supported Cullerton&#39;s plan when he first proposed it. But armed with the court&#39;s unanimous decision, they&#39;re no longer saying they back it.</p><p>Even so, Cullerton said he believes his proposal has the best chance of getting the Legislature&#39;s approval because it&#39;s been considered before and the Senate passed it in 2013. He said he&#39;s willing to push the legislation through in the next few weeks, but he needs the governor&#39;s support before calling it for a vote.</p><p>Rauner&#39;s office said the governor is willing to consider other options, but didn&#39;t comment specifically about Cullerton&#39;s plan.</p><p>Democratic Rep. Art Turner of Chicago, who was a member of the special bipartisan committee that helped craft the 2013 law, also said he believes it will take a while to get consensus on a solution.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s going to be an uphill battle,&quot; he said.</p></p> Wed, 13 May 2015 17:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-skeptical-about-pension-deal-spring-112026 Morning Shift: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-05-11/morning-shift-she%E2%80%99s-beautiful-when-she%E2%80%99s-angry-112010 <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/sbwsa_TT_Red.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/She's Beautiful When She's Angry" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204965023&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>&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="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Where to now with pension crisis? Part 1</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);">Rep. Elaine Nekritz was one of the architects of the bill that offered a possible fix to the state&rsquo;s pension crisis. On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that bill unconstitutional. So what&rsquo;s next for the state&rsquo;s dire fiscal situation? As Chair of the House Pension and Personnel Committee will have to meet with her colleagues in Springfield to try and answer that.&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);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/ElaineNekritz">Rep. Elaine Nekritz</a> is the State Representative of IL&#39;s 57th District.</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/204965015&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="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">W</span><span style="font-size: 24px;">here to now with pension crisis? Part 2</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);">WBEZ statehouse reporter Tony Arnold tells us what he&rsquo;s hearing from other lawmakers about possible solutions to help fund the state&#39;s pension crisis and how this decision might change the rest of the legislative session.&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);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">Tony Arnold</a> is WBEZ&#39;s statehouse reporter.&nbsp;</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/204965039&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>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 22px; font-size: 24px;">Bulls fall short to Cavs, series tied up</span></p><p><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">he Bulls had a chance to take the momentum from Derrick Rose&rsquo;s last-second buzzer beater and turn it into a commanding 3-1 lead on a wounded LeBron. Instead, James delivered a game-winning coup-de-grace with 1.5 seconds left to tie the series at 2. The series shifts back to Cleveland on Tuesday, and WBEZ&rsquo;s sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout talks about the emotional fallout from the Mother&rsquo;s Day setback.</span></p><p><strong style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"><a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">Cheryl Raye Stout</a> is WBEZ&#39;s sports contributor.&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204965033&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="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">&#39;Chiraq&#39; casting call&nbsp;</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);">More than 2,000 people showed up to try to be extras in Spike Lee&rsquo;s movie &#39;Chiraq.&#39; The film&rsquo;s title has been a heated issue, with politicians thinking it reflects poorly on the city but regardless of the controversy, lots of people want to be in the film. WBEZ&rsquo;s Greta Johnsen was at the casting call and she tells us more about who showed up to be an extra. Check out her story <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/thousands-try-role-chiraq-112009">here</a>.</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);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/gretamjohnsen">Greta Johnsen</a> is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;</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/204965009&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-size: 24px;">She&#39;s Beautiful When She&#39;s Angry</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 roots of the women&rsquo;s movement, or second wave feminism, may seem like a time left for the history books-women fighting to get equal footing in the workforce and striking back against the forces that aimed to keep them as second class citizens to their male peers. But some of the issues of that movement are still being fought almost five decades later-equal pay, more seats in boardroom and the fight for reproductive rights. The documentary She&rsquo;s Beautiful When She&rsquo;s Angry talks to the women at the forefront, founders of the National Organization of Women and some of the radical forces who took to the streets. The film is having <a href="http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/">another run</a> at <a href="https://twitter.com/filmcenter">Gene Siskel Film Center</a>. We talk to the director Mary Dore about her goal is sharing this story now, and what connections she sees to that time and now.&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);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="https://twitter.com/SBWSA">Mary Dore</a> is the Director of <a href="http://www.shesbeautifulwhenshesangry.com/">She&#39;s Beautiful When She&#39;s Angry.</a></em></p></p> Mon, 11 May 2015 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-05-11/morning-shift-she%E2%80%99s-beautiful-when-she%E2%80%99s-angry-112010 Illinois justices overturn state's landmark 2013 pension law http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-justices-overturn-states-landmark-2013-pension-law-112005 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Illinois-Supreme-Court-1_WBEZ_Tim-Akimoff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers lack the constitutional authority to solve the state&rsquo;s pension problems by reformatting -- and reducing -- retirement benefits of state workers in a law that was passed in 2013. The unanimous ruling means state legislators will have to return to the drawing board, under a new governor.</p><p>Illinois state lawmakers hoped to save the state more than $100 billion over the next several decades by raising the retirement age of workers and tying the cost-of-living increases retirees receive to inflation, rather than a set percentage, among other changes. But the court said the state constitution trumps their plan.</p><p>Friday&rsquo;s ruling rejects the controversial, and much-debated, pension law that was approved and signed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. The measure was passed as a way to eat away at the state&rsquo;s $100 billion pension debt, which is considered to be so large that it puts the funding of basic functions of state government in jeopardy.</p><p>Attorneys for the State of Illinois, in defending the law, argued that the pension crisis gives the state police powers to enact the law. But, the Supreme Court said, in its decision, that the General Assembly cannot exercise a higher power than the state constitution itself.</p><p>&ldquo;Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it,&rdquo; Justice Lloyd Karmeier wrote in the decision.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics-behind-pension-vote-109301">The politics behind the pension vote</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In delivering the decision, justices handed labor unions a legal victory in their challenge of the pension law. Five separate challenges to the law were consolidated in the circuit court to expedite proceedings. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the lower court&rsquo;s decision.</p><p>Dan Montgomery heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers, a union representing suburban and downstate teachers. He said his members felt great joy and relief when they learned of the court&rsquo;s decision--but that they&rsquo;d always been confident that the Justices would rule in their favor.</p><p>&ldquo;Can you imagine a state where when it&rsquo;s not convenient anymore, to hold up constitutional obligations, the lawmakers just ignore them?&rdquo; Montgomery said on WBEZ&rsquo;s Afternoon Shift.</p><p>Still, he said some of his members were in tears waiting for the decision--he explained they were very afraid of losing their life savings.</p><p>&ldquo;State pensions are still modest pensions that they paid for their whole careers,&rdquo; Montgomery said. &ldquo;They were afraid they were going to lose a significant chunk of 20, 25, 30 percent that bill would&rsquo;ve cut their pensions by.&rdquo;</p><p>The Justices also found that the pension protection clause from Illinois Constitution of 1970 was clear on the point. Their decision leaves questions about how lawmakers will next try to restructure the state&rsquo;s pension systems and any impact it might have on local governments across Illinois that are working to reduce their own pension obligations. Including the City of Chicago, where last year lawmakers approved changes to two of Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded pension systems. Those pensions were not included in Friday&rsquo;s Supreme Court ruling, but the city&rsquo;s adjustments argued for similar benefit changes. Teachers, police and fire pensions were not included in those changes but remain a pressing issue for the city.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The stakes</span></p><p>The State of Illinois owes more than $100 billion in pension debt. Much of which is the result of decades of the state skipping out on pension payments to pay for other services. Over the past few years, money from an increase in the statewide income tax rate was used to make some pension payments, but that tax rate dropped in January with the election of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said the state&rsquo;s taxes are too high. Meantime, bond rating agencies continue to watch the action around Illinois&rsquo; pensions, as they determine the state&rsquo;s bond rating and its ability to borrow money.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">What&rsquo;s next</span></p><p>Reactions to the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision continue to come in. Here&rsquo;s a compilation of some of what politicians and financial analysts make of what&rsquo;s to come.</p><p><strong>Michael Carrigan, Illinois AFL-CIO President:</strong></p><p>&ldquo;The Court&rsquo;s ruling confirms that the Illinois Constitution ensures against the government&rsquo;s unilateral diminishment or impairment of public pensions. Because most public employees aren&rsquo;t eligible for Social Security, their modest pension&mdash;just $32,000 a year on average&mdash;is the primary source of retirement income for hundreds of thousands of Illinois families. While workers always paid their share, politicians caused the debt by failing to make adequate contributions to the pension funds.</p><p>Public service workers are helpers and problem solvers by trade. With the Supreme Court&rsquo;s unanimous ruling, we urge lawmakers to join us in developing a fair and constitutional solution to pension funding, and we remain ready to work with anyone of good faith to do so.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, who voted in favor of the pension law that has been struck down, but also advocated for a rival pension plan:</strong></p><p>&ldquo;From the beginning of our pension reform debates, I expressed concern about the constitutionality of the plan that we ultimately advanced as a test case for the court.&nbsp; Today, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that regardless of political considerations or fiscal circumstances, state leaders cannot renege on pension obligations. This ruling is a victory for retirees, public employees and everyone who respects the plain language of our Constitution.</p><p>That victory, however, should be balanced against the grave financial realities we will continue to face without true reforms. If there are to be any lasting savings in pension reform, we must face this reality within the confines of the Pension Clause. I stand ready to work with all parties to advance a real solution that adheres to the Illinois Constitution.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Buffalo Grove, who was instrumental in developing and negotiating the pension law that was struck down:</strong></p><p>&ldquo;Our goal from the beginning of our work on pension reform has been to strike a very careful, very important balance between protecting the hard-earned investments of state workers and retirees and the equally important investments of all taxpayers in education, human and social services, health care and other vital state priorities. In its ruling today, the Supreme Court struck down not only the law but the core of that balance. Now our already dire pension problem will get that much worse and our options in striking that balance are limited. Our path forward from here is now much more difficult, and every direction will be more painful than the balance we struck in Senate Bill 1.&quot;</p><p><strong>State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, who also was instrumental in developing and negotiating the pension law:</strong><br />&quot;Today the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional. While this is not the opinion the authors of SB1 had hoped for, we must respect the Court and strictly adhere to this ruling. The Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution provides important protections, and today&#39;s ruling proves the depth of those protections.</p><p>The state of Illinois and many of its local governments are still facing serious fiscal problems, including significant pension debt. I look forward to working with all parties to find ways to ensure that adequate resources are available to properly fund our pension systems, in the context of a responsible budget that funds crucial services. Our public employees, our government bodies and our taxpayers deserve nothing less.&quot;</p><p>State Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie, who also was instrumental in developing and negotiating the pension law:<br />&quot;Today the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 1 is unconstitutional. While this is not the opinion the authors of SB1 had hoped for, we must respect the Court and strictly adhere to this ruling. The Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution provides important protections, and today&#39;s ruling proves the depth of those protections.</p><p>The state of Illinois and many of its local governments are still facing serious fiscal problems, including significant pension debt. I look forward to working with all parties to find ways to ensure that adequate resources are available to properly fund our pension systems, in the context of a responsible budget that funds crucial services. Our public employees, our government bodies and our taxpayers deserve nothing less.&quot;</p><p><strong>State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Burr Ridge, who&rsquo;s the House Republican Leader:</strong><br />&ldquo;I respect the Illinois Supreme Court, but disagree with the ruling.&nbsp; I am prepared to continue working on meaningful legislative reforms to save our public pension systems.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Gov. Bruce Rauner:</strong><br />&ldquo;The Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision confirms that benefits earned cannot be reduced. That&rsquo;s fair and right, and why the governor long maintained that SB 1 is unconstitutional. What is now clear is that a Constitutional Amendment clarifying the distinction between currently earned benefits and future benefits not yet earned, which would allow the state to move forward on common-sense pension reforms, should be part of any solution.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is also facing a big pension debt:</strong><br />&ldquo;Since taking office, our goal has been to find a solution to Chicago&rsquo;s pension crisis that protects taxpayers while ensuring the retirements of our workers are preserved -- something we achieved with Chicago&rsquo;s pension reform for the Municipal and Laborers funds.&nbsp; That reform is not affected by today&rsquo;s ruling, as we believe our plan fully complies with the State constitution because it fundamentally preserves and protects worker pensions rather than diminishing or impairing them.&nbsp; While the State plan only reduced benefits, the City&rsquo;s plan substantially increases City funding which will save both funds from certain insolvency within the next ten to fifteen years and ensure they are secured over the long-term.&nbsp; Further, unlike the State plan, the City&rsquo;s plan was the result of negotiation and partnership with 28 impacted unions to protect the retirements of the 61,000 city workers and retirees in these funds and ensure they will receive the pensions promised to them.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 08 May 2015 11:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-justices-overturn-states-landmark-2013-pension-law-112005