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Emanuel: Take suburban, Downstate teacher pensions off Chicagoans’ backs

Updated: May 31, 2012 3:38PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he’s been assured by legislative leaders that Chicago’s pension crisis will be addressed during the fall veto session and made a renewed pitch for Chicago taxpayers to stop doing “double-duty” for teacher pensions.

“It’s wrong to ask Chicago taxpayers to continue to do double-duty when it comes to taxes — paying for their teachers’ pension here in the Chicago Public School system and then the teachers’ pensions in Barrington and the teachers’ pensions in Alton, Ill.,” the mayor said.

“Taxpayers of Chicago pay for Chicago teachers’ pensions and they pay for everybody else’s teachers’ pensions. And they have no say in the benefit structure. None. And if everybody was designing this from scratch, they wouldn’t design the system we have. So, it has to come to a halt. You cannot continue to ask Chicago taxpayers to literally bear the burden for everybody else’s teachers, let alone their own.”

Last month, Emanuel blindsided and infuriated union leaders whose collaboration he had promised to seek to solve the city’s $20 billion pension crisis.

Instead of negotiating first with union leaders in Chicago, he went to Springfield to lower the boom. The following day, he sent a letter to city employees to soften the blow of the bitter pill he’s asking them to swallow: a 10-year freeze in cost-of-living increases for retirees; a five-year increase in the retirement age; a five-percent increase in employee contributions and a two-tiered pension system for new and old employees.

In the end, the General Assembly put off Chicago’s pension crisis until the fall in favor of solving the state’s $83 billion pension problem.

And in an 11th-hour maneuver by House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the bill was stripped of its controversial requirement that Downstate and suburban schools begin footing the bill for teacher pension costs, instead of the state, as Chicago already does.

Madigan’s plan stalled amid a barrage of Republican complaints that the cost-sharing requirement would trigger massive property tax increases and program cuts by suburban and Downstate school systems.

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