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Lightfoot once again advocates pension reform, but refuses to say what she wants

Monday, Jan 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday she’s done all she can to put Chicago’s four city employee pension funds on solid footing — and now, Springfield must do its part. […]

On Friday, Lightfoot said it’s time for the city and its labor unions to “get to the table, make some hard choices, but do the right thing” to make certain that pensions promised to city employees and retirees are “actually available” to honor those promises.

“I’m not prepared to talk about specifics here. But we have to be at the table with all of the relevant stakeholders and think about structural changes that are necessary to shore up the pensions — not taking away the benefits that existing retirees are getting. We’ve got to look at other things that we can do. You know the list. What’s missing is the political will. And we’ve got to find it,” she said. […]

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall made the same argument, while applauding the mayor for including the pension prepayment in her preelection budget. […]

Pressed to identify funding sources, Msall made a renewed pitch for taxing retirement income in Illinois, broadening the sales tax umbrella to include professional services and amending the Illinois Constitution to eliminate the pension protection clause.

60-30-1. None of that has any of those numbers.

       

64 Comments
  1. - Publius - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:10 am:

    Must be nice to have a federal pension, huh mayor? Or perhaps a 6 figure job waiting when you lose next month. Many do not have those wonderful options.


  2. - Hannibal Lecter - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:12 am:

    === On Friday, Lightfoot said it’s time for the city and its labor unions to “get to the table, make some hard choices, but do the right thing” to make certain that pensions promised to city employees and retirees are “actually available” to honor those promises. ===

    Lightfoot forgets that pension benefits are not limited to union employees. The unions cannot bargain away pension benefits for non-union employees. These are not new concepts. Its flabbergasting to see how bad she is at her job.


  3. - One hand //ing - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:13 am:

    === What’s missing is the political will.===

    === I’m not prepared to talk about specifics here.===

    Sounds like what’s missing is a leader who is willing to take a position and argue for it. The unions have plenty of political will; they want what was promised to them and they’ll do what it takes to make sure they get it. Lori, if you want something different, own it.


  4. - walker - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:14 am:

    Maybe Lori should call Martwick for help with pensions.


  5. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:14 am:

    ===The unions cannot bargain away pension benefits for non-union employees===

    They can’t bargain away benefits for union workers, either.


  6. - Who else - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:15 am:

    How very Bruce Rauner of the Mayor to imagine there’s a secret place where the votes are kept that we could easily tap into if we only had the courage to try. It shows such a clear lack of understanding of how Springfield works. Again.


  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:15 am:

    walker, I almost spit out my coffee after reading that one.


  8. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:16 am:

    Meh, she is running for re-election and it’s always politically popular to solve your problems with other people’s money.


  9. - Hannibal Lecter - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:16 am:

    === They can’t bargain away benefits for union workers, either. ===

    That’s true.


  10. - Stuck in Celliniland - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:23 am:

    ==Maybe Lori should call Martwick for help with pensions.==

    Or Pat Quinn. Didn’t he say over a decade ago that he was put on earth to fix pensions?


  11. - JS Mill - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:25 am:

    =Chicago’s four city employee pension funds on solid footing — and now, Springfield must do its part. […]=

    LOL, that is cute. If the city needs the state to bail them out, I would offer the idea that the pensions are not on solid footing. Chicago got control of the schools and a huge chunk of funding and then proceeded to under fund the pension for two decades.

    My dad always told me “you made your bed, now lie in it”.


  12. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:29 am:

    Is Bruce Rauner advising her?


  13. - DHS Drone - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:30 am:

    Lori should study her history. Rahm was able to convince some trade unions to accept a reduction in pension benefits and the courts struck it down. Pensions are an individual right which your union may not reduce.


  14. - AC - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:30 am:

    Please Mayor Lightfoot, bring back Squeezy the Pension Python.


  15. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:32 am:

    Democrats only have the political will to expand unsustainable pension benefits to pander for union support like Martwick’s with no funding source.


  16. - historic66 - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:33 am:

    anonymous at 9:24 was me. Oops.


  17. - Original Anon - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:39 am:

    ===The unions cannot bargain away pension benefits for non-union employees===

    Yet government officials keep forgetting this. During litigation on a past “reform”, I remember having to tell colleagues that discussions with the union could not negotiate down benefits for retirees and non-members, etc.


  18. - low level - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:39 am:

    ==taxing retirement income in Illinois, broadening the sales tax umbrella to include professional services and amending the Illinois Constitution to eliminate the pension protection clause.==

    Great ideas but we’ve heard them all before.


  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:58 am:

    ===government officials keep forgetting this===

    I don’t think they forgot.


  20. - Steve - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 9:58 am:

    If changes aren’t made , taxes will have to go higher. Handing out 6 figure public pensions is very, very, expensive to those paying taxes. Changes will not be made until the pension funds get into to a worse situation. As long as the checks go out : not much is going to change.


  21. - Stuck in Celliniland - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:00 am:

    ==Pensions are an individual right which your union may not reduce.==

    Pensions are also a Promise too.


  22. - Captain Obvious - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:01 am:

    What they lack is not political will it is money. Which they would have had if they had not been shorting the pensions every year to pay for current operations. This is true across the board with public employee pensions. At some point the money had to be paid and taxes will have to be increased to painful levels for the obligations to be fullfilled. For decades this reckoning has been pushed down the road with accounting tricks and payment ramps in the hope that current officeholders will be enjoying their fat pensions and the other party will be in charge when the music stops. Not sure it’s very smart for any candidate to call attention to this dilemma unless absolutely forced to.


  23. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:04 am:

    === Changes will not be made===

    You can stop right there.

    :)


  24. - Chicagonk - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:07 am:

    Focus on what can be improved, which is the performance of the pension plans. There are so many middle-men taking a cut of the returns (from Marquette Associates on down) that the funds struggle to hit their benchmark returns.


  25. - levivotedforjudy - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:09 am:

    I really thought Rahm was on target when he negotiated with the unions, but the Supremes shut that down. So my current mayor (but hopefully for not much longer), what is your idea for JB(crickets in the background)?


  26. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:09 am:

    You can add the Pension Clause and rule of law to the the list of things MLL pays lip service to but does not actually believe in.


  27. - Big Dipper - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:12 am:

    ==Didn’t he say over a decade ago that he was put on earth to fix pensions?==

    What a sad life that must be.


  28. - Rabid - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:18 am:

    Springield is your scapegoat for leadership ?


  29. - Steve - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:19 am:

    Some large public institutions could make non-pension cut backs. But, there seems to be not much support for that. Look at CPS: they now spend $29,182 per pupil which is more than virtually any wealthy suburban school district spends. A budget of $9.4 billion divided 322,000 students will get you that number. Half empty schools, no problem for Chicago voters.


  30. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:23 am:

    === Half empty schools, no problem for Chicago voters.===

    So you don’t live in Chicago…

    Rich is on it.

    ===60-30-1. None of that has any of those numbers.===

    Any or all discussions to things that require the legislative and gubernatorial want have to be realistic to that truth of 60/30 signature.

    It’s tiring the lip service that refuses first the constitutionality and likely more important to process the needs of passage snd signature.


  31. - Steve - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:35 am:

    -60-30-1-

    Hopefully the public pensioners will not become just another item in the state and local budgets if their pension funds run dry. Sort of like Walgreens waiting to get their Medicaid money. Yeah, we owe you but you might have to wait.


  32. - TNR - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:37 am:

    == she is running for re-election and it’s always politically popular to solve your problems with other people’s money. ==

    Yep. Lots of “get more money from the state” being offered as policy solutions in the mayoral race right now.

    == Look at CPS: they now spend $29,182 per pupil which is more than virtually any wealthy suburban school district spends. ==

    Yes, of course. Not saying CPS doesn’t have problems of its own making, but it costs way more to educate kids who grow up in poverty than it does to teach kids who grow up affluent. That’s true everywhere.


  33. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:38 am:

    === Walgreens waiting===

    Walgreens is not a government entity that can raise taxes/revenues as needed or the want of the legislature and governor.

    Government is NOT a business.


  34. - Nick Name - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:45 am:

    ===Or Pat Quinn. Didn’t he say over a decade ago that he was put on earth to fix pensions?===

    Him and Squeezy.


  35. - Ashland Adam - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:47 am:

    Two points of information:

    1. ‘Springfield’ already did its part. The General Assembly created Tier 2 pensions.

    2. Since this discussion involves the mayoral race, note that candidate Paul Vallas was Mayor Daley’s appointed CEO of CPS in the 1990s. Attempting to balance CPS’s budget, Vallas crafted a budget which required CPS defaulting on payments to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund. CTPF was 100% funded in 1995. Its now about 50% funded.

    And as a result - Chicago property tax payers are on the hook for the unfunded liability.

    “During Vallas’ six years with the district, and for several years following his tenure, CPS paid next to nothing toward teacher pension costs. The Vallas era at CPS coincided with the dot.com bubble that sent markets soaring, helping the pension fund stay healthy even without the annual injections of cash it began missing out on.

    Had Springfield not changed the law, (that allowed Vallas and CPS to not make annual payments), the CPS teacher pension fund would have been paid $90 million in 1995 to cover the employer share of pension costs that year. Instead, it got $10 million. Over the next decade, the fund was out $2 billion.” https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2019/jan/06/paul-vallas/vallas-claims-cps-healthier-under-his-watch/


  36. - James the Intolerant - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    The biggest issue the pensions have is the non-payment of the city share for 17 of the 22 RMD years. Let’s see, who was involved on the Finance side for the city at the very beginning of that stretch.


  37. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 10:51 am:

    ===Meh, she is running for re-election===

    Then she should focus on this…

    ===During Vallas’ six years with the district, and for several years following his tenure, CPS paid next to nothing toward teacher pension costs===


  38. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:10 am:

    ===Then she should focus on this…===

    Vallas is the easiest for her to beat in April. If she makes it into the run-off, she’ll clobber him with this stuff and more. She’s got to stay ahead of Garcia and the pack to get into the finals though. Getting a head-to-head with Vallas is her best path to re-election. Can’t nuke him now.


  39. - retiree two cents - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:18 am:

    If Illinois allowed catastrophic health insurance policies, with an indemnity-like reimbursement, may healthy retirees (with less than 20yrs of service) would be willing to give up the group health policy.

    I get a $400/mo pension, but have to contribute $600/mo for the group health.

    I only need catastrophic and am way over-insured. Illinois doesn’t allow for high deductible, non-aca compliant policies.

    These are political problems caused by politicians, and need to be solved by same.


  40. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:23 am:

    ===is the easiest for her to beat in April===

    I think they believe that. Careful what you wish for.


  41. - northsider (the original) - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:40 am:

    I dread what a Vallas-Lightfoot runoff will do to the city. It will be ugly


  42. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:42 am:

    ===It will be ugly ===

    I, frankly, can’t wait to see the apoplectic reaction of the lefties who deliberately divided their vote and allowed such a runoff to happen.


  43. - TNR - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:48 am:

    == Careful what you wish for. ==

    Given how unpopular the mayor is, the bravado behind her “bring-on-Vallas” talk is hard to take. But, I get why she would rather run against him — if she makes the runoff.

    And by the way, If it is Vallas v. Lightfoot in the runoff, that loud bang you hear just before midnight on February 28th will be sound of heads exploding at CTU headquarters.


  44. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:49 am:

    ===sound of heads exploding at CTU headquarters===

    I’m sure they’ll quickly find someone else to blame.


  45. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:52 am:

    Stuck in Celliniland -

    To reiterate a 2015 Michael J. Madigan quote about Pat Quinn recently recounted in this place:

    “He’s gone!”


  46. - Big Dipper - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:54 am:

    I think in the runoff last time people were voting against Preckwinkle not for Lightfoot. Now in a runoff they will be voting against Lightfoot (if she even makes it) so the challenger will get the benefit of that. It’s crazy that Vallas got just 5% last time and now has a chance just because of how unpopular Lightfoot is.


  47. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:56 am:

    === has a chance just because of how unpopular Lightfoot is===

    He’s also running a pretty good campaign. He’s letting her take all the shots against the other candidates.


  48. - DHS Drone - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 11:59 am:

    I suspect there was an assumption at CTU that Chuy would get in the runoff so might at well back their guy in the first round. But Chuy has run a surprisingly weak campaign so far. (And as Rich points out, Vallas has run a surprisingly strong one.)


  49. - Eyeball - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 12:04 pm:

    CTU/CPS wants state to fund their pension, but doesn’t want to roll it up into the TRS because benefits are better.


  50. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 12:19 pm:

    You can see the problems with her thinking a lot here. She is in campaign mode and hanging out with her rich donor friends. They’re complaining at her about pensions, so she complains about pensions. The Illinois Constitution, rule of law, workers, political reality, all of this does not factor into her thinking. She even personalizes the issue into something that the unions need to “step up” and fix. They tried that. It failed. The leadership cannot “step up” and do anything. It’s a right that the workers have individually.


  51. - Lurker - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 12:25 pm:

    I had to stop at “… she’s done all she can to put Chicago’s four city employee pension funds on solid footing …” since I could not think of anything she has done. At least not competently.


  52. - City Zen - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:05 pm:

    ==Must be nice to have a federal pension==

    Six years of service under FERS isn’t much of a pension.


  53. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:10 pm:

    === Is Bruce Rauner advising her?===

    The harsh reality of how much Mayor Lightfoot and Bruce Rauner are similar has always puzzled me to why Lightfoot ran as Candidate Lightfoot… if only to, again, fool voters like Bruce Rauner did when his pivot against organized labor became toxic to all governing.

    I do think Vallas is confused to who is his own base and how that base could/would build in a runoff.

    One race at a time, but you can’t change who you are, what you were, how you want to be seen in mere weeks either.


  54. - City Zen - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:12 pm:

    ==It’s crazy that Vallas got just 5% last time and now has a chance just because of how unpopular Lightfoot is.==

    More because the competition for that block of votes in 2019 is down to just him. McCarthy and Joyce got 10% combined last time, where do you think those votes are going? That alone gets him into the top 4 and that doesn’t include some of Daley’s 3rd place share.


  55. - Roman - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:13 pm:

    == I could not think of anything she has done. ==

    To be fair, she did direct some of the city’s budget surplus to the pensions. But the state did the same, so she shouldn’t act like she’s being responsible while “Springfield” is not.

    And if she wants to climb on her “what’s missing is the political will” high horse, she should at least be intellectually honest and say what her real beef is with the state: previous mayors were statutorily allowed to skip and short pension payments and she’s not. And because of that she wants to curb the pension benefits of current Tier 1 city employees to balance her budget.


  56. - thisjustinagain - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:15 pm:

    LL is a glutton for punishment by even talking about pensions after the backhanding she got by ILSUPCT a few years ago, yet having no actual plan to do anything she just said. Aren’t the TIF districts awash in cash the City Council can redirect to pensions? LL’s City staff must drink before work to save time at this point, never mind her campaign staff.


  57. - Big Dipper - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 1:18 pm:

    == where do you think those votes are going?==

    NW Side white conservatives like Napolitano and Sposato and Garrido were shilling for Wilson so some of those votes are going there. Although with Wilson’s poor polling and shoot-the-rabbits blunder they may now be defecting to Vallas.


  58. - RNUG - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 2:22 pm:

    Lightfoot’s problem is she needs more tax revenue going to pensions, she needs more money going to public safety, and she needs more money going to public services.

    Whatever candidate solves that problem, or at least comes up with a plausible plan, will win.

    I would be pitching optimizing, streamlining and improved services to the voters, with the savings going to the pensions.

    The problem, once elected, is delivering on said promises. It would require getting serious about reorganizing the police department to put more sworn officers on the street, and cheaper civilians in the back office / clerical jobs. And it would require taking on all the various unions to hold the line on wages. It may even require another small tax hike or two. And all of this, if successful, would result in losing the next election. So it won’t happen.


  59. - Jocko - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 3:24 pm:

    ::LL doing her best Henry II impression::

    “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome pension obligation?”


  60. - ChicagoBars - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 3:24 pm:

    Being fair to MLL she and her budget team did also somehow get City Council to pass automatic-is property tax indexing for inflation a few years ago which will help / give cover to future Mayors.

    https://chicago.suntimes.com/city-hall/2020/10/21/21526711/chicago-city-budget-property-tax-increase-consumer-price-index-inflation-rate-lightfoot-coronavirus

    Her budget squad got a credit upgrade too. But those positives are still long, long way away from General Assembly lending a hand.


  61. - Huh? - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 5:50 pm:

    “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome pension obligation?”

    I don’t think that are 4 knights of the realm ready to take on that onerous issue.


  62. - It'll happen - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 7:00 pm:

    Per Rich’s comment at 11:42am - Vallas v Lightfoot is going to be the runoff and what you predicted will be the case.


  63. - Just looking - Monday, Jan 30, 23 @ 7:49 pm:

    I read the comments and I do believe VALLAS is the best choice to restore Chicago


  64. - Goodson Oddman - Tuesday, Jan 31, 23 @ 7:23 am:

    Lightfoot trying to make sure city employees don’t vote for her either?


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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