If two $3 billion pension plans are approved by the legislature, Chicago’s taxpayers may be left footing the price. On the same day that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released a “mid-year” budget prediction stating her administration will leave Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson with a budget shortfall of $85 million.
Lightfoot and her Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett issued a warning about the high price tag. Bennett, meanwhile, referred to the related legislation as “among the largest pension sweeteners in the history of Illinois,” as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We don’t need a bunch of unfunded mandates for pensions,” Lightfoot said. One of the measures would raise the benefits for Chicago firemen employed after January 1, 2011, making the cost of living adjustment for those hired after 2011 equal to the full annual rise in the consumer price index.
In contrast, the second bill would alter the final average income that is used to determine a Chicago firefighter’s pension. Through 2055, when a Chicago Firefighters Pension Fund must meet a funding ratio of 90%, the measures will cost Chicago taxpayers almost $3 billion.
State Senators Robert Martwick (D) and Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D), the latter of whom will act as Johnson’s deputy chief of staff, are the co-sponsors of the two legislation. Both bills appear to be on their way to J.B. Pritzker, the governor of Illinois, very shortly.
According to a statement from the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan government research group, the two bills “could potentially result in the reversal of recent bond rating upgrades for both governments” and would “jeopardize the hard-won financial stability attained over the last several years” by both the state and city.
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“For the city of Chicago and other local governments, this could lead to large property tax increases, further burdening homeowners and businesses as Illinois enters into a recession,” the organization’s statement read.
Lightfoot’s caution over the two proposals comes just over a week before she leaves her position as mayor after failing to win reelection in February. According to ABC7, Johnson’s inauguration is set for May 15.
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