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Preckwinkle says Quinn “noncommittal” on her pension reform bill

Thursday, May 22, 2014

* From yesterday

Several dozen unionized Stroger Hospital employees descended on a Cook County board meeting Wednesday, expressing their displeasure with President Toni Preckwinkle’s pension-reform plan, which is expected to surface soon in Springfield.

As county hospital workers waited their turn to address the board, the echoes of an overflow crowd could be heard chanting “save our pensions” from a hallway outside the boardroom. […]

When asked what her thoughts on the workers concerns were, Preckwinkle said she was obligated to revamp county pensions.

“In 2034 it runs out of money. And then there’s no pension for anybody,” she said.

The county’s pension accounts — which are about 54 percent funded — are not as severely underfunded as the city’s.

* She’s in Springfield today lobbying for her pension bill

“We put this together, because we knew if we didn’t do something . . . then we’re probably going to suffer . . . downgrades in our bonds,” Preckwinkle added. “And the longer we wait, the harder it is to do, the more money is required, the more difficult it is. So we’re pushing to get something done by the end of the session.”

Doing so, in the face of so-called pension fatigue after the General Assembly recently passed bills making changes to state and city of Chicago pension plans, may be a tall order. Gov. Pat Quinn has yet to sign the bill that would make changes to two of four Chicago pension plans that are in worse financial shape than the county plan. Preckwinkle said she’s talked to Quinn.

“I’ve talked to him about the fact that we will be trying to secure passage in this session,” she said. “He was noncommittal, but I’m hopeful that he will be supportive. I think it’s no secret that this is complicated by the fact that he has a city pension bill on his desk already.”

Quinn is in a tough spot, as he mulls whether to sign a city plan that likely would lead to a $250 million tax increase over the next five years, even as he talks about granting a larger income tax break to offset property taxes for homeowners across the state.

Yeah, but he also said he was “Put on this Earth” to solve the pension problems. Now, when property taxes could rise as a result, he doesn’t wanna hear about any pension reforms.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Gene Debs - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    The new-found motivation for dealing with a pension problem due to arrive in 2034 does not seem genuine. “The numbers indicate that we might have to cut pensions in 2034, so let’s cut them now!” Consider this. If Illinois does not do anything address its structural deficit, the state will be in a much more serious financial breakdown that will affect all state services. Most observers expect that will happen long before 2034.

  2. - DuPage - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:20 pm:

    Didn’t she read the paper? She should wait until the Illinois Supreme Court decides the constitutionality of SB1. Otherwise she is wasting time and resources and political capitol on something that may be thrown out later.

  3. - Chris - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    “Yeah, but he also said he was “Put on this Earth” to solve the pension problems. Now, when property taxes could rise as a result, he doesn’t wanna hear about any pension reforms.”

    What IS PQ’s plan to fix the pensions? And the “much more serious financial breakdown” that Mr Debs notes?

    So far, PQ’s plan seems to be a give away of tax dollars to homeowners. Sure, it’s more of a plan than Rauner has offered, but I’m not sure that it is a *better* plan than “nothing”.

  4. - Chris - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    DuPage: “Didn’t she read the paper?”

    She read the part that said she might beat Rahm for Mayor.

    If she can get her (possibly unconstitutional) bill signed before Rahm gets his (possibly unconstitutional) bill signed, then she looks like someone more able to git’r'dun than Rahm.

  5. - MOON - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:25 pm:


    The problem exist’s today.
    In 2034 “it runs out of money” according to Preckwinkle. That is a lot different then what you concluded. Or would you rather wait until there is no money and then address the issue?

  6. - OneMan - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Do the cook county property tax bills break out the taxes you pay to the various pension funds?

    Would be curious how those rates compare to what I pay in dogpatch

  7. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    She has thousands of non-union employees. She has never reached out to them. Not once. Kinda silly when you learn over 800 are attorneys.

  8. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:30 pm:

    Now that is the kind of action we need in City Hall!

  9. - Chris - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:36 pm:

    “Do the cook county property tax bills break out the taxes you pay to the various pension funds?”

    Yes, partially. Don’t see my current one handy, tho. Know that (in Chicago) it does NOT break about the pieces to the various muni pensions, but just one big chunk.

    So we see Cook County, MWRD, Forest, City Parks, Schools, Community College, and City, with the total levy and the portion to pensions.

  10. - Rhino Slider - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    I am well aware this completely lacks sensitivity, but I must admit to a certain amount of amusement with Chicago and Cook pension problems. Both have been complete cesspools of patronage and their respective corruption, so it feels like poetic justice that the people who ultimately caused the problem will have to suffer the consequences.

    I just wish karma was more swift to the big dogs.

  11. - RNUG - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    - DuPage - is on target if she is not running for mayor.

    - Chris - is right if she is running for mayor.

    In either case, she would be better off sitting down again with the various employees / retirees and trying to work out a compromise …

  12. - Chris - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 2:28 pm:

    “so it feels like poetic justice that the people who ultimately caused the problem will have to suffer the consequences.”

    How do you figure? They’re all retired collecting their pensions and will mostly be dead before the funds actually run out of $$.

    The people who will “suffer the consequences” are the ordinary tax payers.

    Sure, say what you want about ‘getting the government you deserve’, but that’s just facile.

  13. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    How can a pension fund run out of money if there are contributors (current workers)and (the key) contributions from the county?

  14. - Name/Nickname/Anon - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 3:05 pm:

    They are spending a lot more than they are bringing in, eventually they run out.

  15. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    They can run out of money because contributions are being skipped and that’s not an option that can be exercised by employees.

  16. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    ==Do the cook county property tax bills break out the taxes you pay to the various pension funds?==

    If you look up a property on the Treasurer or Assessor’s website, you can see the breakdowns to taxing districts for your taxes, but not by pension fund. They do include pension fund data. However, looking at old tax bills that are paid, there is a “pension” number, but I can’t find an explanation of what it actually means and whether it is the amount that went into pensions from your bill. I’ve included a couple screenshots.

  17. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 4:05 pm:

    ==you can see the breakdowns to taxing districts for your taxes, but not by pension fund. They do include pension fund data.==

    I should have written this better. The bills include pension fund data such as how big it one fund is and its funded/unfunded percentage. You can see how much of your taxes are going to specific government bodies, but you cannot see how is going into pensions from your taxes. As I wrote in the earlier comment, there is a pension number that you can see on older tax bills, but I’m not sure what it actually means.

  18. - Just The Way It Is One - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 9:48 pm:

    I think his “put on this Earth” remark applied to IlliNOIS’ Pension Crisis because that’s what he was fighting to do for so long…not so sure he meant that statement to automatically apply to all sorts of OTHer large units of Government, like Chicago and Cook County, however, who respectively caused their OWN messes on the Pension issue–particularly the City…!

  19. - Not So Innocent Bystander - Thursday, May 22, 14 @ 11:40 pm:

    No payments have been skipped by Cook County. The alleged shortfall is the result of revised actuarial calculations based longer life expectancies and a significantly more pessimistic view of future returns on investments. It is unclear where these new actuarial guidelines came from or how they compare to the City’s or the State’s.

    Also, unlike the City and the State, Cook County employees do not participate in Social Security, so the pension is the only source of retirement income. Because timely pension payments are necessary to continue its exemption from Social Security, the County cannot miss any payments without incurring a significant penalty from the federal government. In contrast, because both the City and the State participate in Social Security while also promising generous pensions, they have been able to skip pension payments with impunity.

    Any valid comparison between the State and County pension systems should factor in the County’s saving of the employer-side Social Security payment.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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