Mayor Rahm Emanuel testified before a state legislative panel Tuesday in Springfield, Ill., about Chicago's rising pension costs and urged for a series of reform measures. Otherwise, Emanuel argued, the city could be forced to hike its property taxes 150 percent.
In order to avoid the tax hike and other negative impacts on the lives of Chicago taxpayers, Emanuel argued that city employees' retirement age should be upped five years. Further, the mayor argued that employees should no longer receive cost-of-living adjustments for 10 years and should also contribute more to their own pension funds, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"The day of reckoning has arrived," the mayor said, according to the Tribune.
His Tuesday appearance in Springfield marked his first as mayor.
Emanuel also called for offering new city employees the option of either a defined benefits package or a 401(k)-style plan and halting all city taxpayer contributions until reforms are instituted, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Sun-Times points out that Emanuel's plan mirrors, and goes beyond, the state worker pension reform plan Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn introduced last month. That plan has been criticized by labor groups and some downstate school districts who say the changes could financially cripple them.
Emanuel estimates that, without reforms, taxpayers will have to pay $1.2 billion annually to cover city workers' pensions, NBC Chicago reports. A lack of action made on the city pensions could also mean less money, and subsequently larger class sizes, for Chicago schools.
Henry Bayer, AFSCME Illinois executive director, called Emanuel's pension testimony in Springfield "disappointing," Crain's Chicago Business reports. His plan, Bayer contends, "actually points the way to economic insecurity."