Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to meet with organized labor leaders Wednesday for a discussion on the issues facing the city, including its pension crisis.
Besides the Fraternal Order of Police, pretty much all the unions representing city workers will be represented at the meeting hosted by the mayor, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
"This is all part of the process I've always had of open dialogue with labor leaders . . . You can't ask people to come forward with ideas if you're not willing to go sit at a table," Emanuel said in an interview with the newspaper.
"From McCormick Place [reforms] to health care stuff, Jorge [Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor president] and I regularly talk," the mayor added. "And I said I wanted to, at the right time, talk about what we're gonna be doing to meet all of our obligations -- both in the pensions, the budget and economic development."
For his part, Ramirez told the newspaper: "Sitting down and having a constructive and collaborative dialogue stands in stark contrast to what's happening at the state level, with the governor."
Over the weekend, the state legislature passed Chicago pension legislation that would reduce for five years the city's contribution that it is legally mandated to make to its woefully underfunded police and fire pension funds.
Under the newly-passed pension measure, which has gone to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk, the city's total payment due next year for its police and fire pension funds would be reduced to $619 million from about $838 million. Also, the city's 2040 deadline to have its police and fire pension funds 90 percent funded would be extended to 2055.
"For the first time ever, the city's gonna step up and make that payment. [But] I've always said it had to be done in a responsible and reasonable way . . . that doesn't unfairly burden taxpayers," Emanuel said.
"Back in 2010, when police and fire [pensions] were dealt with, it mandated tripling the payments. This doubles the payments from where they are. So, I wouldn't call that kicking the can if you're going up 50 percent. . . . You can't ask for a freeze on [property] taxes, then say this kicks the can. The next step in my implementation is to then have a casino as a way to shore up these funds."
As it relates to the $634 million that the Chicago Public Schools has to pay to the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund by the end of June, Emanuel ducked questions Tuesday on whether the payment can be made. Emanuel said he is looking to Springfield for possible help in tackling the school district's financial issues.
"There's no doubt the finances are challenging," the mayor said Tuesday, reported the Chicago Tribune. "They are challenging because of things that were done and not done in years past going decades back. And so, there is a financial challenge, and my whole goal is to now work with the state and make sure that the financial challenges do not undermine the hard work that our teachers, our principals, our parents and our students are doing academically at CPS."