SPRINGFIELD - Republicans in the Senate and the House differed dramatically in their response to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's city worker pension fix. Emanuel's effort would push two of the city's five pension funds to 90 percent by 2054. Those two funds alone are currently underfunded by $9.4 billion.
Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno called on her caucus to oppose the Democrats proposal that was rushed through the legislature with little or no insight into how the fix will affect Chicago taxpayers. The proposal that swept through the House in the morning and through the Senate Tuesday afternoon left the Senate Republican leadership with many unanswered questions.
"We are concerned about the speed of the process. Where is the Governor? Will he sign the legislation or veto it? Is there a comprehensive plan that can and should be discussed with the legislature?" Patty Schuh, communication director told Illinois Review Wednesday.
"It is not in taxpayers' best interest to not see the whole picture. If they go to property taxpayers for these two smaller pension systems -- who are they going to go to when the big bills come due for their large pensions systems this summer? Are they looking for a bailout from taxpayers all over the state?
"We should not pretend these decisions are being made in a vacuum," Schuh said. "We want to help Chicago solve its problems but we want to protect taxpayers."
Senator Radogno called on her caucus to vote "no." Her comments -
The plan passed the Senate along party lines, except for State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-Aurora) who voted "yes" and State Senator Pamela Althoff who voted "present."
On the House side, Minority Leader Jim Durkin urged Republicans to support the plan. Twenty-two of Durkin's 46 House colleagues voted with him.
“I want to make sure that we do the best we can to ensure that the City of Chicago will be vibrant, that it will be a place where we will feel safe and secure about sending out children, encouraging our international friends and our friends from out of the state to come visit, spend your money in the City of Chicago,” Durkin said.
“... I don’t want to see the City of Chicago fall in line with Detroit,” Durkin said.
The rush through the legislature was attributed to keeping the unions from having time to get their troops activiated. While only two of the five pension funds were affected with the legislation, union representatives opposed Emanuel's COLA cuts and employee contribution hikes.
There was also no indication how the proposal would be paid for because the solution was placed back in the laps of the Chicago City Council.
The roll calls for SB 1922 were: