This is a problem we created together as a City, and it is a problem that will require everyone’s participation to resolve. That said, I do not support cutting benefits for current retirees. Many retired City workers have only their pensions to see them through their old age. They have worked hard and paid into their pension funds for years, and it would be wrong to change the rules on them now. Although the Supreme Court of Illinois has not yet weighed in on the matter, I was not surprised that the Circuit Court ruled recently that the State pension legislation violated the clear language in the State Constitution, declaring pensions to be a contractual right of pensioners. If the Supreme Court accepts the Attorney General’s argument that the State may limit pension benefits as an exercise of its police powers, we will carefully review the ruling and its implications for further addressing this very serious problem.
Regardless of the outcome of that litigation, I would consider reducing the City’s contribution to pension benefits for future employees and other cost-saving measures. However, I believe in the right of collective bargaining and the important social policies that it reflects, and I would prefer to negotiate such changes with the elected union leadership. I respect the contributions our workers make to our city, and I believe we will be able to come up with a solution to everyone’s advantage, so long as we work together from that foundation of respect.
I also have a record of reducing taxes on Cook County taxpayers, and I think it is important for our families and businesses to know we will not try to balance our books on their backs. I do not support a property tax rise to fund pensions, because I know too many families – and especially senior citizens -- who are already struggling to pay their existing tax bills.
A pension is a guarantee and it must be kept. I have made many proposals while in the council and on the campaign trail about how we can keep our commitment and make our payments. After declaring a TIF surplus, I would use some of those dollars to shore up our pension fund. A small commuter tax and a LaSalle Street tax would also help to bring much needed money to the fund. People who spend more than 40 hours a week making their living who benefit from our safe streets and city services should be willing to pay a small amount of money for those advantages.