Posted by Barton Lorimor (@bartonlorimor)
* From Chicago Tonight…
(Bruce) Rauner says he would support freezing pensions for current workers and moving them into a separate 401K-style system for future work. But, he says police and fire officials would be exempt from that.
“The two groups, I believe, that should have a special deal that’s much better and different than voters, are police and firefighters because they risk their lives, and that’s a different arrangement,” Rauner said.
Rauner did not offer specifics on what a pension deal for police and firefighters would look like. But his stance could be beneficial to gaining the endorsement and support of state police and fire unions.
The attempt to split the union base has already drawn ire remarks from AFSCME…
“Of course police officers and firefighters put their lives on the line to serve the public. Of course they earn their pay and deserve their pension,” said AFSCME spokesperson Anders Lindall. “But I’d like Bruce Rauner to tell a correctional officer in an overcrowded state prison how he thinks their service is worthless. I’d like Rauner to explain to a parole agent that their sacrifice isn’t as worthy. I’d like Rauner to tell a child protection worker knocking on the door of an abusive household that they don’t put themselves in harm’s way. He should explain to EMTs and highway maintainers and employees at Chester Mental Health Center, where the state commits individuals found not guilty of crimes by reason of insanity, that their public service isn’t sufficiently dangerous in Bruce Rauner’s mind to merit the pension they earned. He’s not going to do that, because this billionaire is so out of touch he probably doesn’t know these men and women exist.”
Police and fire unions would be a valuable ally. They bring one heckuva ground game to the table among other things.
Their political strength is the primary reason they were excluded from the Chicago pension bill, which the Tribune editorial board called on Gov. Quinn to sign…
The Chicago pension crisis that burdens an array of Chicago funds is Chicago’s problem and Chicago, to its credit, at long last has negotiated a partial solution. Now, though, Chicago needs that gubernatorial signature.
Every year, whoever is governor of Illinois signs a mound of geography-specific bills that, as laws, give individual local governments leeway to address their local problems. This bill is no different. If Quinn signs the bill and City Hall raises taxes, that’s on City Hall, not on Quinn. It would be preposterous for opportunistic Republicans or aggrieved city taxpayers to blame him for signing the agreement that City Hall negotiated with the unions, City Hall wrote into final form and City Hall persuaded legislators to pass.
So if the City Council raises property taxes as a result of this bill, Gov. Quinn should not be blamed for signing this negotiated measure.
But in the editorial’s closing lines…
Still worried that you’ll be blamed for signing a pension bill affecting city laborers and municipal workers that permits a property tax hike? Too late:
In late 2010 you signed a pension bill affecting city police officers and firefighters that … permits a property tax hike.
Governor, those who criticize your tax policies already have their reasons. Signing this bill shouldn’t add to that list.
Present Pat Quinn is being criticized for Past Pat Quinn signing a bill that could mean higher property taxes if local governments short their pension payments. However, Present Pat Quinn should sign this pension bill that contains similar mechanisms because it shouldn’t be held against Future Pat Quinn?
The Governor isn’t giving any public indication as to how he might rule on this bill. To complicate matters further, Rauner encouraged him earlier this week to veto the bill.
* Mark Brown devoted his column to the difficulties the police and fire unions could pose to the Mayor when he comes back to town to overhaul the remaining pension systems…
Mayors across the state have joined forces in hopes of getting relief from their own soaring police and fire pension costs if the Legislature moves to help Chicago.
Their involvement creates both opportunities and complications for Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he tries to finish what he started with fixes to the pension funds of city municipal workers and laborers.
The opportunity is that Emanuel can expect to have most of those mayors — Democrat and Republican — in his corner next time as he lobbies legislators on police and fire pensions.
The complication is that he also could find every current and retired police officer and firefighter in the state converging on Springfield to oppose him.
* Meanwhile, some alderman and the Cook County Clerk are proposing TIF dollars as a way to offset at least some of the potential property tax increase. Here are the main parts of David Orr’s proposal, which Greg Hinz doesn’t expect to go over well at City Hall…
Orr’s first recommendation is to pare down existing TIFs by removing some properties to immediately return money to communities. If just 10 percent of the TIF increment is returned to the rolls, this administrative move could result in Chicago taxing districts’ ability to levy an additional $38.5 million annually, of which $10 million would be available to the city and $24 million for Chicago Public Schools, according to an analysis by the Clerk’s office.
Orr’s second proposal requires the state legislature to take action to increase the frozen value of TIFs by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each year and capture the increase as recovered TIF value. Chicago taxing bodies could recoup an estimated $5.7 million each year – $1.5 million for the city and $3.5 million for CPS – by increasing their levy and applying the increase to such things as pension costs.
Orr reiterates his stance that all TIF districts should be audited and those audits made available to the public – a recommendation of the 2011 TIF Reform Task Force not yet implemented. Chicago officials say $1.5 billion of its $1.7 billion TIF fund is committed to projects, but the public has no way to judge whether each project is worthwhile without a comprehensive audit and open debate.
* There are other ideas…
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) has already proposed a 1 percent commuter tax on 620,000 suburbanities who earn their paychecks in Chicago.
On Tuesday, Ald. Will Burns (4th) took the wraps off his ideas. They include a congestion fee that would require motorists driving into the downtown area to pay a toll for the privilege.
“The property tax has to be part of the mix. But we also need to find other revenue options that are fairer than the property tax. If you’re able to generate more revenue from other sources, maybe the property tax goes down,” Burns said.