Mayor vows to confront pension crisis ‘before the end of the year’
Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed Friday to confront Chicago’s skyrocketing pension payments “before the end of the year,” but he refused to say whether the solution he seeks will include $10 billion in pension borrowing.
“I’ve never been patient. I have a sense of urgency to get work done. And I have a moral commitment — both to the public and to my successor — to leave the city better off and in a stronger position than the day I walked in,” the mayor said.
“We’ve always confronted challenges regardless of political risk . ... I’m a mayor for all eight years, not 7½. ... I’m gonna deal first with the budget. I will, before the end of the year, address the issue of pensions.”
Under repeated questioning, Emanuel refused to say whether he would revisit the $10 billion borrowing, even though the potential savings has been diminished by rising interest rates.
Nor would he say whether there is a viable alternative that would minimize the need for another punishing round of post-election tax increases.
“I’m gonna address the issue of pensions, and you’ll just have to wait for that,” he said, playing it coy.
Emanuel’s lame-duck status has emboldened aldermen who have taken a series of tough votes just to begin to solve Chicago’s $28 billion pension crisis.
Chicago taxpayers have already endured a parade of property tax increases for police, fire and teacher pensions, two increases in the monthly tax tacked onto telephone bills and a 29.5 percent surcharge on water and sewer bills.
It’s not clear whether Emanuel still has the juice to push the pension borrowing through the City Council.
Even his own Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown acknowledged this week that, “Your political capital changes when you’re not running for re-election.”
But during Friday’s interview, Emanuel bristled at the suggestion that his lame-duck status has diminished his ability to finish the job he started.
“The first test [after he announced he wasn’t running] was a vote I had on e-cigarettes. And we passed it in 24 hours overwhelmingly,” the mayor said.
“I believe this budget will pass. We’ve never not passed a budget, obviously. And never had to struggle. In 7½ years, never lost a vote. So I don’t buy that” claim that his political capital has diminished.