Our question for Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia

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The Sun-Times Editorial Board asked mayoral candidates Rahm Emanuel and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to address the following questions about Chicago city finances, keeping their responses to no more than 800 words.

The biggest challenge for Chicago’s next mayor will be resolving the city and public schools’ financial crises.

The city’s four pension funds are underfunded by more than $20 billion and risk insolvency. This year, the city must decide where it will get an extra $550 million to pay into the police and fire pension funds, fill a $300 budget hole and come up with at least $50 million to support the municipal workers and laborers funds.

In addition, the Chicago Public Schools have a projected deficit next year of $1.1 billion, with pension costs accounting for about $700 million of the red ink.

1. If elected, what would you do this year to pay the city pension bills and fill the city budget hole? Is a city property tax increase on the table? Please be specific about what other revenue sources you believe are viable — as well as what spending cuts you would consider.

2. Would you support reducing benefits for police officer, firefighters and teachers in order to lower the city’s pension bill? We recognize a state Supreme Court decision is pending that could limit the city’s options, but please lay out your preferred solution.

3. Do you support asking the legislature to delay the required $550 million police and fire payment? If so, what would be the consequences of a delay for the solvency of those funds?

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