CBS 2 asked Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot for their positions on key issues facing Chicago.
City workers have held up their end of the bargain by paying into the pension system throughout their careers and we must seek opportunities to ensure they can have the secure retirement that they have earned.
The next mayor must renew Chicago’s commitment to city workers and retirees by finding the revenue to meet our obligations instead of constantly seeking remedies in the form of increased employee contributions and COLA freezes. In addition, as mayor I will do everything in my power to fiercely oppose any attempt by the state to reduce current or future city retiree benefits.
To solve our pension debt problem we must enact constitutionally permissible reforms that save money on the repayment of the debt, and access revenue in order to front-load that repayment. I will seek legislation that will permit Chicago pension funds to offer discounted benefit buyouts to tier 1 employees, as was enacted by the state last year.
I would also seek to ensure that a portion of revenue raised by the adoption of progressive rates be diverted through the Local Government Distributive Fund, to all municipalities to be utilized for pension debt stabilization. Additionally, I will work with Springfield to pass legalization of recreational marijuana and gaming expansion with all revenues dedicated to pension debt stabilization.
Pensions are a promise. I grew up in a union household, and, in the old steel town we lived in, lots of workers lost their pensions.
I’ve seen firsthand how working families plan their lives around these promises, and I’ll protect these promises as mayor. The next mayor’s first budget will have to find approximately $277 million in additional monies to fund the city’s four pension funds.
In order to build the public case for additional revenue, the city must demonstrate to taxpayers that it takes seriously its obligation as a responsible fiscal steward of the public’s hard-earned tax dollars. The next mayor must look into reforms that can result in meaningful cost-savings without breaking our contractual obligations to workers.
The city also needs to engage in TIF reform. There are numerous other areas in the city’s budget where my administration can and will look to save money, and we will look hard at other redundant or unnecessary expenses, but the reality is the city will need new revenue sources to address the pension crisis.
In doing so, we will not balance the City budget on the backs of low-income and working class families, nor will we adopt measures that drive business out of Chicago.