WBEZ | pensions http://www.wbez.org/tags/pensions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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 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