* Greg Hinz has an important story about a pension reform peace gesture by CTU President Karen Lewis…
During an appearance yesterday afternoon before the Crain’s editorial board, Ms. Lewis specifically said the union is willing to consider reducing benefits for those who still are working, although she emphatically ruled out changes for members who already have retired.
“There could be some modification (for current workers),” said Ms. Lewis, who has a reputation as a firebrand and who on May 5 opened the door to a second teachers strike in three years. “We’re interested in talking about modifications, yes.”
* Lewis said she wouldn’t talk about specific cuts until revenue had been negotiated. She’s generally opposed to raising property taxes and has floated things like a financial transaction tax (which was shot down by Mayor Emanuel yesterday) and a commuter tax, which is going nowhere. However, there’s another idea out there…
Ms. Lewis said Chicago Public Schools officials lately have been “more open to discussion [about revenue] than in the past.”
She didn’t say what they’re “open” to. A source who should know says a plan to dedicate revenue from expiring tax-increment financing districts is picking up steam because it would provide a revenue stream for pension bonds without raising the overall property tax rate above today’s level.
* On to Mayor Emanuel…
What he has ruled out — pointedly and specifically — is a transaction tax, a city income tax increase, and a commercial lease tax like the one championed by Mayor Harold Washington during the mid-1980’s. A Circuit Court judge overturned the six percent lease tax in 1986. The city appealed that decision, but the City Council repealed the tax before the city’s appeal was heard.
The mayor has also nixed the idea of using the jackpot of revenue from a Chicago casino to solve the pension crisis.
“I don’t think you should go to the roulette table with somebody’s retirement check. I’m not gonna do that,” the mayor said last month.
“How long has it been laying out there?… A lot of the credit agencies want something that’s reliable that they count on. I’m trying to stop the city from going to a place that I don’t think it can if we…do the morally responsible thing to ensure that every workers, every retiree gets a pension.”