Chicago's Daley Says Pension-Overhaul Law Will Bring Record Tax Increase

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley accused his fellow Democrat, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, of imposing “the largest property-tax increase in the history” of the city by signing a pension-overhaul bill into law.

Quinn’s action places “a tremendous burden on Chicago taxpayers” to bolster the pension funds of public-safety employees, Daley said yesterday in a statement.

“The governor took away the opportunity to fix the legislation before he signed it,” Daley said. “The direct result of the governor’s actions will be a massive property-tax hike for Chicago residents of at least $550 million, or about a 60 percent increase in our current property-tax levy.”

Under the law Quinn signed yesterday, the city’s combined annual contribution for police and firefighter pensions will rise from a projected $309 million in 2015 to about $856 million over the next 25 years, according to the city. The law, which applies to all public-safety workers in Illinois, is meant to protect their retirement benefits by requiring municipalities to boost funding of the plans that cover them, Quinn said.

The legislation requires Chicago to fund its public-safety pensions at 90 percent of projected obligations within 25 years. That is “a higher ratio and shorter timeframe than every other municipality in the state and the state’s own employee pension system,” according to the statement from Daley’s office.

The mayor of the third most-populous U.S. city said he’ll push for changes, including increased payments by employees. He said worker contributions haven’t risen in more than 34 years.

Any changes to the law would have to pass in the General Assembly’s new legislative session, which begins Jan. 12, said Ashley Cross, a spokeswoman for Quinn, and John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton.

“If there is new legislation proposed, we’ll take a look at it,” Cross said in an interview yesterday.

The law sets a maximum pension payment to a worker at 75 percent of the individual’s average salary, and caps annual cost-of-living raises at 3 percent or half of the “urban consumer price index,” whichever is less.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Jones in Chicago at tjones58@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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