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What Does State Reform Mean For Chicago’s Pensions?

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Dana Kozlov Dana Kozlov
Dana Kozlov is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. She...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Now that state lawmakers have taken the tough step of passing state pension reform, what does it mean for Chicago? CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov explains.

One gavel down, and Chicago’s pension fix to go.

“The state created the problem, the state has a responsibility to help the city fix it,” said Laurence Msall of Civic Federation.

Which means Illinois lawmakers have to help Mayor Rahm Emanuel fix it. And, like it was with the state’s pension mess, it’s bound to be a daunting task.

According to a city hall spokesperson, Chicago’s required pension contributions to four of its unions will more than double, jumping from $479.5 million dollars this year to $1.07 billion in 2015, and that’s not counting the Chicago’s Teachers pension – which a spokesperson says is currently funded at 58 percent.

“If it has to double the property taxes or perhaps even go further in terms of taxation, it will send a horribly negative signal,” said Msall.

But a battle – not a quick fix – appears inevitable.

“We do not plan to go down without swinging on this,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.

Chicago Teachers Union President Lewis calls Chicago’s pension liabilities a revenue crisis – which could be solved, in part, by raising taxes – something Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t keen to do. So the focus – like it was with state workers – could come down to retirees raises.

Asked if the union would consider adjusting cost of living increases, Lewis said, “We want to see actuarial numbers first.”

A CPS spokesperson says required contributions to the Teachers’ pension will more than triple in the next two years.

Chicago isn’t alone. Many municipalities across the state face equally dire pension liabilities.

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