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About that pension “deal”

Tuesday, Apr 1, 2014

* Hizzoner announced what he said was a major agreement yesterday

The Emanuel administration announced that it has reached a compromise with some of its unions that would resolve about half of the city’s pension debt crisis, putting about 70 percent of the burden on the city and its taxpayers and the rest on workers and retirees.

The city is putting on the table a $250 million increase in property taxes over five years, increasing the tax bill by $50 a year for the average homeowner. Retirees would see slower growth in cost cost-of-living increases and workers are expected to increase their contributions eventually to 11 percent of pay, from 8.5 percent today.

* But the unions that represent many, if not most, of the 34,000 active employees covered by this alleged agreement oppose the plan

The We Are One Chicago union coalition is opposed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pension proposal affecting participants in the Municipal and Laborers pension funds. Coalition members opposing the deal include the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31, and the Illinois Nurses Association – all of whom represent city and school board employees and retirees that would be directly affected.

The CTU represents lots of school workers who aren’t in the teachers pension fund.

* The trade unions are hailed as supporters, but the other unions will be working hard against this thing once Mayor Emanuel unveils his Springfield legislative package.

* What residents and workers would be forced to give up

The mayor’s proposal involves both taxpayers and city workers paying more. Under the proposal, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $50 more a year starting in 2016. After five years, the homeowner would be paying an extra $250 a year. […]

City workers also would pay 2.5 percent more toward their retirement, increasing their contributions by 0.5 percent a year for five years. Employees now pay 8.5 percent of their salary each year for pensions and would ultimately pay 11 percent. The increase would amount to about $1,500 more a year by 2019 for a city worker making about $60,000.

In addition, City Hall would change how it awards cost-of-living increases to city workers. Instead of 3 percent yearly bumps that are compounded, the city would provide increases at the lower of 3 percent or at half the level of inflation, not compounded. In addition, annual pension bumps would not be given in 2017, 2019 and 2025, and there would be a two-year delay in starting the hikes upon retirement.

* The bigger picture

If Emanuel can convince the General Assembly to approve the pension deal with building trades and white collar employees, it could leave police and fire unions on the outside looking in.

Next year, Chicago is required by state law to make a $600 million contribution to stabilize police and fire pension funds that have now have assets to cover just 30.5 percent and 25 percent of their respective liabilities.

The mayor wants the General Assembly to put off the balloon payment until 2023 to give him time to negotiate a similar deal with police and fire unions.

The cops and firefighters are gonna be tough nuts to crack. The firefighters, especially, are quite adept in Springfield and they rarely lose. Actually, I’m having a hard time thinking of a bill that passed which they wholeheartedly opposed. Kicking the can down the road is, therefore, a wise move. But the first responders know they’re next, so they’ll fight this thing hard.

* More

The mayor’s plan calls for 70 percent of the money to come from the city, 9 percent from employees and 21 percent from benefit reforms.

Roughly 30 percent of the city’s contribution would be paid by “appropriately allocating” increased pension costs to the Aviation and Water funds based on the number of employees whose work is tied to those funds. Another 20 percent would come from savings generated by phasing out the city’s 55 percent subsidy to retiree health care and other budget savings.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    Another legacy cost of the darling of the Chicago business community, Mayor Daley.

    He allegedly ran government like a business, what with the privatization and such. How’s that looking these days?

  2. - PMcP - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    Seems fair enough with some concessions on both ends, it has to get done and one side taking all the pain isn’t a viable option.

    I really think they should stress that a year-over-year COLA of 3% when inflation is around 1% is not a COLA, it’s a 2% raise. I’m not sure how I feel about the half of inflation or no COLA adjustments but I’m assuming it has a lot to do with rectifying prior period adjustments, have yet to see any actual math on that calculation though.

  3. - From the 'Dale to HP - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    The Sun-Times saying this is a deal is way, way, way off. This “deal” is as “done” as the Wigley plan Rahm kept/keeps crowing about. There is no deal, just City Hall attempting to get in front of a story and the Sun-Times not doing any reporting.

    “If Emanuel can convince the General Assembly to approve the pension deal with building trades and white collar employees, it could leave police and fire unions on the outside looking in.”
    Yeah, cus that worked SO well with CPS and the CTU in 20012. Does anyone at the Sun-Times have a memory? A clue? Rahm tried this same strategy two years ago and ended up falling flat on his face, why will it work this time?

  4. - ZC - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    I had no idea that many city workers were getting the compounding 3% deal, too. Shows what I know.

    I have all sympathy for city workers and union employees but that 3% compounding, in an era where retirees can live to be 90, is a super-sweet deal. Here the deficit scolds have a point; I don’t see how we can keep paying for that.

  5. - Norseman - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Only in Illinois is a deal allegedly struck with most of the affected parties are opposed.

  6. - SupplySgt - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:26 am:

    By the way - Police and fire do NOT get the compounding 3% COLA’s now - so they are in a different boat altogether. Nothing to cut in their benefits so it really is a straight up revenue issue where they are concerned.

  7. - Almost the Weekend - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    It seems both sides are unhappy, and that is what a compromise is all about. I hope this passes.

    =I have all sympathy for city workers and union employees but that 3% compounding, in an era where retirees can live to be 90, is a super-sweet deal. Here the deficit scolds have a point; I don’t see how we can keep paying for that.=

    I agree 100%, I doubt majority of private sector workers have this clause.

  8. - railrat - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:28 am:

    curious was the “eligibility” time frame addressed? was/is it not “work one day” your eligible? I don’t read such.

  9. - fed up - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    Interesting that in the Sun times article twice Rahm is qouted as saying he doesnt want to talk about who’s to blame for city pension problems. So Daley and the city didnt pay their share of the pension but we dont want to talk about it.

    Also the Police and Firefighters dont get a 3% compunding interest COLA. Police and Fire get a 1.5% simple interest COLA. Police and Fire already pay 9.2% of their pay into the pensions.

  10. - But yet - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    A specified portion of my 25 years of contribution has always been for the 3% compounded COLA. Should be entitled to a refund of that part of my contribution as I will not receive the specified COLA?

  11. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:37 am:

    I don’t see how the pension debt can be solved without someone feeling pain.

    I got a call yesterday from an organization with whom I worked previously, asking me to come to a legislator and support a financial transaction tax. I informed the person that in Illinois, it’s very hard to pass progressive taxation. In the past I would have had stars in my eyes, but after spending time here and elsewhere, I feel more realistic about such matters. This doesn’t mean, however, that people shouldn’t push for their beliefs. I think that we should try to learn from our past mistakes and make our campaigns better.

  12. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:39 am:

    $250 per year extra property taxes (year five) on a $250,000 home in Chicago, and that’s the mayor’s proposal (with employee contributions and lower COLAs, not enough for most unions)?

    Wow. I wonder how much property taxes will ultimately rise in Chicago.

  13. - iThink - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    I get that receiving a 3% compounded can seem sweet when CPI is at historic lows, but it wont seem so much whenever inflation hits.

    Fixing it to half of CPI with a cap of 3% will hit retirees hard if we ever get 70’s style inflation again. A fairer compromise to me would just to peg the AAI to the true cost of inflation with a cap of 5% b/c that’s the cap on property taxes that pays for these things.

  14. - Reality Check - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:45 am:

    Don’t forget that city of Chicago employees aren’t eligible for Social Security, the average pension in the municipal fund is just $33,000 and the mayor is dumping retiree health care, too.

  15. - 32nd Ward Roscoe Village - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    I will seriously think about selling my house and moving out once my kids are through high school, but who will buy my house with such high property taxes?

  16. - fed up - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:57 am:

    32nd ward, you are obviously ignorant of property taxes in the burbs compared to the city. Burbs pay way more in property taxes, but get better services, the key is to improve city services if taxes rise.

  17. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:57 am:

    ===but who will buy my house with such high property taxes? ===


    You do realize that Chicagoans pay amazingly low property taxes compared to the rest of Illinois, right?

  18. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    No sympathy here in Oak Park for Chicago’s property tax rates. It was my choice to live here, but Chicagoans don’t know from high property tax rates.

  19. - Rod - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:03 am:

    I came away from reading the articles on the claimed pension deal a bit confused. For example Paul Merrion’s Crain’s article that Rich linked to his post only states that a “compromise with some of its unions” was reached, what unions?

    Fran Spielman in the Sun Times put it differently writing the deal was reached with “white collar and building trades unions,” again no unions were noted and no officer of these unions was quoted.

    The Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago has no statement whatsoever on this supposed deal. The five person Board of the Fund had a meeting on March 20th and in the minutes for that meeting there was no discussion of this pending deal. Really if the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago Board has agreed to this deal why can’t any newspaper get it’s President Timothy G. Guest (operating engineer) to go on record saying he agreed with the deal?

  20. - But yet - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:11 am:

    MEABFC is the administrator of the plan. They implement whatever is the law.

  21. - archimedes - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:12 am:

    CPI for 2013 was 1.5%, average the last five years was 2.1%, average last 10 years 2.4%, last 20 years 2.4%, last 30 years 2.8%.

    The cost in annual pension funding for 3% compounded versus 3% simple is .78% of salary.

    Paying the Normal Cost to the pension fund every year is affordable. Avoiding the cost and racking up a huge debt is not - no matter what the benefit structure.

    COGFA released their study this spring analyzing the five state pension systems from 1985 to 2012 (2013 audited data is just now becoming available). All benefit increases during that time period added about 10% to the unfunded liability for the State. The pensions are 40.2% funded, and would be 42.3% funded if there had been no benefit changes at all for that time period.

    Benefit increases from 1985 to 2012 are NOT a significant contribution to the mess we are in.

    Racking up the debt is a real cost now. Reducing benefits that have not yet been earned makes sense and should be the focus of pension reform. Reducing benefits that have already been earned is not justified.

    The rest of the cost to make up for the debt that has been incurred is the responsibility of the entire State (in the case of the five pension systems) or Chicago (for their systems). Maybe that means taxing retirement income state-wide, maybe it means the income tax stays, or other solutions.

    Debt is the obligation of the entity that took on the debt.

  22. - Downstater - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    After years and years of inept Democratic leadership running the City of Chicago, the piper now has to be paid. A little increase in property taxes isn’t much for all the folks living in Chicago who have paid very low property taxes for years. How about putting a property tax surcharge on all those folks with homes worth more than $250,000. Model it after Madigan’sj proposed tax on millionaires.

  23. - Private Citizen - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    As a private citizen who has never worked for goverment but has friends who work for the city, I have to say that Chicago employees will not receive Social Security.
    I livein the great little town of Wilmette and as a taxpayer and not a city worker I feel that people such as fire and police are the victims here and the Mayor of Chicago has a active amd aggresive campaign and war on them through the media. Its unfortunate and sad that these people everyday risk there lives and the Mayor treats them and goes out of his way to make them look like the villains.

  24. - fed up - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:26 am:

    Rahm has two choices, attack police, fire teachers and make them the bad guys or say that daley and the city shortchanged the pension funds and now the bill is due and we have to pay. Rahm has chosen to attack.

  25. - John A Logan - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    If we can just keep raising fees and taxes, eventually this is all going to work out. Trust me.

    Rahm Emmanuel.

  26. - Rod - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    @But yet the Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago just like the Chicago Teachers Pension fund has an obligation to represent the interests of its retirees and future retirees. While it is true the fund is legally obligated to implement state law it is also free to oppose or support a change in state law.

    The President of the Chicago Teacher’s Pension Fund Jay Rehak has been very public about his opposition to a reduction in the pension benefits of retired teachers and future retirees. The CTPF website carries news on the impact of proposals made by Mayor Emanuel on its members. Timothy Guest President of Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago has said nothing.

  27. - Mr. Fiscal - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 12:53 pm:

    As long as the mayor keeps spending on a De Paul arena , Malcolm X College, Maggie Daly Park, buying cemeteries at byrn marw and western, renting police stations for 1 dollar, building a elevated 20 million plus bike lane along LSD we will be just fine. Who cares about police and fire who protect. As long as the judges get there pensions everything is just fine. The Mayor twist everything and puts blame on city workers and blows money not even thinking twice about this upcoming pension ordeal and 600 million dollar ballon payment.

  28. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 12:57 pm:

    The fund will take no position on these matters. Imagine if they oppose it and the Fund runs out of money in 10 years, then they could personally be liable.

  29. - 32nd Ward Roscoe Village - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    ===but who will buy my house with such high property taxes? ===


    –You do realize that Chicagoans pay amazingly low property taxes compared to the rest of Illinois, right?–
    Yes, I know, I had to use that extra money I was “saving” to send my kids to a private grade school and only now am able to avail myself of one of the public high schools, not my neighborhood one.

  30. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    ===I had to use that extra money I was “saving” to send my kids to a private grade school and only now am able to avail myself of one of the public high schools===

    I don’t think any of my neighbors send their kids to the public high school here. It’s not exactly ranked very high.

  31. - RNUG - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    Read this story late last night / early this morning. I probably had a bit different take on it than a lot of you.

    Other than the fact it isn’t a done deal, I had to admire the way it was structured. Everyone pays some and Rahm gets to defer a payment a lot of years. Brilliant (and yes, I’m being somewhat sarcastic)! It’s a good enough mix it could get passed if done quickly. I realize a bill hasn’t been drafted yet and the devil is in the details, but I see it as a pre-emptive strike by Rahm who well knows the COLA and work rule changes will most likely be struck down by the ISC (which is why it needs to be passed NOW before the SB0001 ruling comes down). I think Rahm doesn’t care if that part gets tossed out because he will have gotten his tax increase and his payment deferment (about 70% of his wish list), both of which he really needs.

  32. - anon - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 1:48 pm:

    After that substantial cross-over vote for Dillard in the primary, is Squeezy going to stick it to more public employees just to please Rahm?

  33. - Jack - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 1:52 pm:

    All right cops and firemen get only 1.5% COLA non compounded but correct me if I am wrong do they not pay for retiree health insurance? As a retiree in the Laborers Pension I am paying 1050 a month for me and my wife. That is up from 750 last year.

  34. - fed up - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 3:10 pm:

    Jack I’ll correct you, you are wrong Police and fire pay for health insurance. a few years ago the city offered officers 55yo and older free healthcare until 63 if they retired, that has since been amended.

  35. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 3:22 pm:


    You are all over this. Once again, a political solution for a legal and moral problem. Very clever for sure. Put the illegal part in the legal to make it something that can pass and then let the ISC strike out the pension reductions but what is left is tax increases etc.

  36. - Glass half full - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 8:39 pm:

    The 1st step in city pension reform should be figuring out exactly how much the city skipped with pension Holidays and take that out of TIF $. There would still be a deficit, but Retiree’s, employees & taxpayers would probably be willing to experience ” shared sacrifice” if the Mayor and City Council had a little skin in the game. THAT should be the starting point!

  37. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, Apr 1, 14 @ 8:56 pm:

    3% COLA is great money when inflation is 1%. Records indicate that since the 70’s when compared to inflation rates in double figures at that time, the 3% averages out to just about right over the years. I bet no one would be jumping on how much retirees would be losing when inflation jumps over 3%, would they. But all of that aside, the employee contribution from each paycheck PAYS for that 3%. It is not a raise that someone gave them. It’s their deferred earnings. And property taxes here in Dupage are slightly more than double what I’d pay if my house were in Cook. Nice try.

  38. - anon - Wednesday, Apr 2, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Further thoughts: doesn’t Rahm’s inclusion of a property tax hike undercut the posititon that pension cuts are necessary under police powers? Hard to argue that you can’t tax to pay for pensions when you announce that you are taxing for pensions.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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