Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday renewed his public appeal to Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a pension reform bill that would set the stage for a $250 million property tax increase to save two of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds.
Quinn has said “no can do” to the property tax increase, forcing Emanuel to strip all reference to it from the bill approved by the Illinois General Assembly that increases employee contributions by 29 percent and reduces employee benefits to save the Municipal Employees and Laborers pension funds.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has urged Quinn to veto the bill and the Rauner campaign has made robo-calls urging Chicago voters to turn up the heat on Quinn.
Speculation abounds that Quinn will either veto the bill outright or issue some kind of amendatory veto by the June 12 deadline.
On Friday, Emanuel used a “fireside discussion” hosted by the University of Chicago that marked the anniversary of his third year in office to apply his own form of public pressure on the governor, with whom he has a difficult relationship.
“I helped the governor—and my administration helped the governor—pass the state’s pension reforms because I thought creating that path was key for us to have a path to go down,” the mayor said.
“I then negotiated with — not one, not two [unions]. In the Municipal and Laborers are 31 separate union leaders. If the city and labor comes to an agreement, Springfield should ratify it because we’re the parties to that agreement and let us get on with the business of securing peoples’ pensions and securing the economic future of the city of Chicago.”
If Quinn puts aside his many differences with Emanuel to sign the Chicago pension reform bill, the mayor will then have to confront the formidable task of persuading aldermen nine months away from re-election to pass the $250 million property tax increase.
Earlier this week, aldermen told the Sun-Times that Emanuel’s sagging popularity — and the public’s disdain for hiking property taxes — will make it infinitely more difficult for the mayor to win City Council approval of Emanuel’s plan to raise the city’s property tax levy by $50 million in each of the next five years and overall property tax collections by $750 million over the same period.
They pointed to results of a Sun-Times poll showing only 29 percent of those surveyed would support Emanuel if the election were held today. The poll also offered four options for raising revenue to solve the city’s pension crisis; raising property taxes was the least popular. Only one percent of those polled believe raising property taxes is the best way to go.
Emanuel has said repeatedly he’s open to other revenue ideas. But, it has to be “legal,” sustainable and acceptable to a Wall Street rating agency that has already dropped Chicago’s bond rating by four notches in the last eight months, he said.
Brooke Anderson, a spokesperson for Quinn, had no immediate comment on the mayor’s appeal.