While speaking to reporters Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn said he does not support Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's call to increase city property taxes by $250 million over a five-year period as a means to shore up two city pension funds.
"What I saw last week wasn't a plan, it was a sketch," Quinn said of the mayor's pension reform proposal. "It was a sketch that would relegate property owners in Chicago, families and businesses to a future of higher and higher property taxes. I don't think that's a good way to go."
"They've got to come up with a much better, comprehensive approach to deal with this issue," the governor added. "But if they think they're just going to gouge property tax payers, no can do. We're not gonna go that way."
As part of the mayor's proposal, the average city employee under the municipal and laborers' pension funds would also have to kick in an additional $300 a year toward their pension.
The city is required to make a $600 million contribution in 2015 to its underfunded police and firefighter pension funds. When questioned about how the city could pay for that pension payment, Quinn said he backs an approach that focuses on income taxes, rather than property taxes. Quinn announced during his state budget address last month that he wants to keep in place Illinois' temporary income tax hike, which is set to expire in January. He also proposed an annual $500 property tax credit for individual homeowners,
In response to the governor's recent comments, Emanuel said, "When we’re done with the bill, I think he sees how important getting pension reform is to the 60,000 workers who require it because they work full-time to get it."
“This would be the type of legislation that meets the goals of the city of Chicago to make sure we have resolved an issue that was hanging over the city, hanging over our retirees, hanging over our workers, hanging over our residents," the mayor added. "I wanted to make sure we had a proper balance to achieve that.”
UPDATE 1 (7:07 p.m.): Emanuel has removed the property tax hike language from the bill (SB 1922) Monday following the governor's expressed lack of support of the mandated increase outlined in the legislation.
“Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,” Emanuel said in a prepared statement following the change.
“I reject the false choice between allowing the pension funds to go belly up, delivering thousands of pink slips to city workers, or enacting a massive property tax increase. This plan will secure these pension funds while ensuring the taxpayers don’t have to shoulder the burden alone.”