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Illinois Senate president: Chicago pension fix job 1 this year

1 year, 7 months ago from Chicago Tribune

Cullerton’s comments come less than two months after the state approved a massive plan to deal with the $100 billion pension debt for state workers, university employees and teachers outside Chicago

From from Chicago Tribune:

With Chicago staring at a deadline for coming to grips with a $29 billion pension debt for teachers and public safety workers, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is urging unions to help negotiate an agreement on retirement benefits lest lawmakers act on their own.

But Cullerton, in a Tuesday interview ahead of next week’s new legislative session, also said that coming up with a deal on city police and firefighter pensions could be very complicated since fixes applied to other government worker pension systems wouldn’t apply.

“The pensions for Chicago is a real major issue which we have to deal with because if we don’t, we’ve got built in triggers that would require dramatic increases in contributions into those pension funds,” the Northwest Side Democrat said. “It’s a crisis if we don’t do anything.”

Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan helped build in those city pension triggers by passing a 2010 law requiring increased payments for public safety pensions.

Cullerton’s comments Tuesday come less than two months after state legislators and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn approved a massive plan to deal with the state’s $100 billion pension debt for state workers, university employees and teachers outside Chicago. Those changes involve curbing cost-of-living increases and increasing retirement ages for workers while also lessening employees’ contributions to their retirement system. The law is being challenged in court by worker and retiree groups over its constitutionality.

Without quick changes in state law, Chicago Public Schools face a $612 million payment for teacher pensions for the budget year that ends June 30, about triple what they had been, Cullerton said. At the same time, payments for police and fire pensions will increase by nearly $600 million next year.

At one point last year, Cullerton proposed a measure to delay increased city payments to police and fire pensions until 2018. The plan also would push back the need for large-scale increases in city funding for those pensions until 2022, buying Mayor Rahm Emanuel even more time.

Cullerton said that proposal was designed to get people to the negotiating table and not to delay the day of reckoning.

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