Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
If Gov. Pat Quinn is open to diverting a greater share of state income tax revenue to Chicago and other local municipalities, the mayor will gladly take the money.
“It would also be a change in policy [after] years of reducing the local share. So, I’m for the local share. Always have been,” the mayor said.
But, Emanuel argued Wednesday, that’s not a replacement for his plan to raise property taxes by $250 million over five years to save two of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds.
That’s why the mayor is still pressuring Quinn to sign the bill on his desk that sets the stage for the massive property tax increase — by raising employee contributions by 29 percent and reducing employee benefits.
“It would be a change in policy [after] years of reducing the local share. . . . They’ve cut it in years past. It used to be at 10 percent. What if they went back to 10 percent? Go back to what it was before they cut it. I’m for it. I’ve been for that for a long time — pension or no pension,” the mayor said.
“I’m also for signing the bill,” Emanuel said. “Let’s go. Let’s give the workers, the city, the employees, the retirees, the families that rely on it the certainty that comes with it.”
Quinn said “no can do” to the property tax, forcing Emanuel to strip any reference to the increase from the bill approved by the Illinois General Assembly and put the onus on the Chicago aldermen ten months away from re-election.
That added yet another chapter to the contentious relationship between the two powerful Democrats.
The governor has 60 days to act on the bill and he’s hinted he might take all of it. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has urged Quinn to veto the bill. He’s also infuriated his longtime friend Emanuel by making robo-calls to Chicago voters urging them to pressure the governor to veto the bill.
“You know my view. I think the governor should sign it. But, I’m always open to ideas that people want to present and come forward with that would be helpful,” Emanuel said.
Aldermen have been searching under every rock for ways to minimize or even eliminate the $250 million property tax increase. They’ve tossed out a host of ideas ranging from borrowing against expiring tax increment financing districts to a downtown congestion fee, a commuter tax, a sales tax on services and a garbage collection fee.
On Wednesday, the mayor was asked whether he was willing to entertain any of those ideas to reduce or eliminate the property tax increase.
“I’m open to ideas. But, it has to give people certainty,” he said.
“There’s a lot of changes we’re asking of our present workers and our retirees — not for one year, but through the plan. So, whatever we do has to not just work for one year. It has to be consistent to match the changes we’re asking of our workers and our retirees. You can’t find a solution that’s…temporary or only for a single year. You’re not asking that of them.”