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The pension front

Friday, Feb 19, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto a bill boosting pensions for thousands of Chicago firefighters, arguing it would saddle beleaguered taxpayers with perpetual property tax increases and cripple a pension fund dangerously close to insolvency.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, a Lightfoot political nemesis, passed in the waning hours of the lame duck session and awaits Pritzker’s signature or veto.

It removes the “birth date restriction” that prohibits roughly 2,200 active and retired firefighters born after Jan. 1, 1966 from receiving a 3% annual cost of living increase. Instead, they get half that amount, 1.5% — and it is not compounded.

Martwick has argued the “birth date restriction” already has been moved five times as a way of masking the true cost to the pension fund.

Lightfoot strongly disagreed.

Her letter to Pritzker argues that the bill amounts to ill-timed and unaffordable pension sweetener that would saddle Chicago taxpayers with up to $823 million in added costs by 2055.

There’s really nothing to strongly disagree with. The city has routinely moved the birth date restriction, but it’s been done in a way that the costs are not funded, which pushes the fund closer to insolvency. This bill would essentially take that routine practice, make it official and force the city to finally pay for it.

* Crain’s

…That’s the utter turmoil that seems to have overtaken one of the larger public retirement systems in the state, the $11 billion Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund, which receives a nice chunk of Chicago homeowners’ property tax payments every six months.

When I last looked at the fund in October, its executive director and other key officials had just resigned, one commissioner had been censured by other board members, and board President Jeffery Blackwell was publicly complaining of an agency “culture of intimidation, intentional misinformation, discrimination, slander, misogyny, fear-mongering, blatant racism, sexism and retaliatory actions.” But interim Executive Director Mary Cavallaro said in a statement there was no reason to worry, and that “the fund is committed to ensuring financial stability, operational efficiencies and seamless service to members.”

Well, guess who now has resigned—with a blast? That would be Cavallaro. “I can no longer tolerate the chaos and toxicity of the boardroom, along with the vile disrespect and insults directed toward me, the leadership team and the hard-working staff of the fund by certain misinformed trustees,” she said in a letter to the board. “I have grave concerns about the ability of fund operations to sustain the continued loss of key staff members because of bad trustee behavior and poor board governance.”


  1. - the Edge - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:20 pm:

    Time for an elected CPS board (snark).

  2. - walker - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:24 pm:

    Sometimes hard to distinguish the Mayor from a regular Illinois Republican.

  3. - Essential State Employee - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:39 pm:

    =Sometimes hard to distinguish the Mayor from a regular Illinois Republican.=

    Or from Pat Quinn. You remember, that guy and his sidekick Squeezy who claimed they were “put on earth” to “fix” pensions?

  4. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:46 pm:

    I do not understand why Chicago does not participate in the pension funds that other municipalities in the state do.

  5. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 12:50 pm:

    Probably should just blow up the CTPF board and start over. Or better yet, merge that and TRS.

  6. - Back to the Future - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 1:17 pm:

    It seems it should be about time for the voters and the GA to take a look at how all these pension funds are run.
    As voters, the way the current State Treasurer votes and operates on state pension boards should be issue that gets some publicity and is closely reviewed by taxpayers in the Democratic primary that is coming up.

  7. - Southern Skeptic - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 1:40 pm:

    Don’t know why this concept is so hard to understand. It’s a horrible message to the rating agencies and we simply can’t afford it.

  8. - Speculator - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 1:58 pm:

    “There’s really nothing to strongly disagree with. … This bill would essentially take that routine practice, make it official and force the city to finally pay for it.”

    I disagree.

    Your argument is premenced on the assumption that if Pritzker vetoes this and the birthdate restriction is not eliminated, Springfield will continue to legislate changes to the cutoff year anyway.

    Just because Springfield has “routinely” approved changes to the birth date cutoff in the past, doesn’t mean they should do it again.

    At the end of the day, making changes to the birth date cutoff or eliminating it entirely, provides pension benefits above and beyond what these beneficiaries are currently entitled to.

  9. - TNR - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 2:15 pm:

    == The city has routinely moved the birth date restriction ==

    That’s right. This is a decades long dance and it usually ended with a handshake agreement between city hall and the firefighters. The union would want to eliminate the “born by” date all together, the city would push back and then compromise, agreeing to move the date just a few years, which would limit the financial impact (at least on paper.) Four or five years later, they’d come back and do it all over again.

    Lightfoot could have agreed to move the date from 1966 to 1970 and avoided the sticker shock she is now starring down. But as we’ve learned, she is not quick to compromise. She’d rather fight and win. She’s good at fighting, not so good at winning.

  10. - Shemp - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 3:53 pm:

    “Just because Springfield has “routinely” approved changes to the birth date cutoff in the past, doesn’t mean they should do it again.” Absolutely. I have no idea why past practices should equate to a never-ending promise. This is Illinois in a nutshell. Refuse to change in the face of a fiscal crisis and instead, actively pass legislation to make it even worse. What’s the definition of insanity again?

  11. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    Any Illinois politician that votes to increase government pensions beyond the current contractually required amount is burdening the citizens without need. These changes can only go one way. Why make a bad situation worse?

  12. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 19, 21 @ 4:04 pm:

    ===Just because Springfield has “routinely” approved changes===

    Dummy. Chicago has approved the changes.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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