Chicago aldermen still trying to kick pension can down the road

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Chicago aldermen, desperate to avoid raising property taxes before an election, are now looking to Gov. Pat Quinn and the Legislature to throw them a lifeline.

Whether that takes the form of a casino or a greater share of the state income tax, they don’t much care, as long as it delays or reduces the property tax hike they dread.

I think that’s wishful thinking, given the state’s own problems, but the governor got their hopes up this week by dangling the possibility, despite Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s skepticism.

I spoke with a number of aldermen at Wednesday’s City Council meeting about what they expect to do if Quinn signs into law the measure pushed through the General Assembly by Emanuel to repair the pension funds for municipal employees and laborers.

All of them continue to hope somebody figures out a way to escape the property tax increase Emanuel has proposed to pay for the deal he made with unions in exchange for benefit cuts and higher employer contributions — whether that alternative comes from the state or the city’s own resources.

But at least one alderman thinks the most logical escape route for the City Council is to put off a vote until after the February election.

“They don’t have to do it this year,” said Ald. Robert Maldonado (26th), whose opinion runs counter to conventional wisdom but may be legally correct. He said he has discussed this possibility with other aldermen who are in agreement.

“Do you really think that most of the members of the City Council have the stomach to vote for a property tax increase walking into an election?” Maldonado asked rhetorically.

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