Chicago can fix pensions but needs taxpayer voices – not just their money

Chicago can fix pensions but needs taxpayer voices – not just their money

Chicago's public pension crisis is the target of a new group called the Taxpayer Pension Alliance, which includes the Illinois Policy Institute. The alliance's launch included this statement by the institute's head of policy.

“Chicagoans are suffering under the crushing burden of debt: debt driven by Chicago’s worst-in-the-nation public pension crisis. Every Chicago home owes an average of $45,000 in unfunded government pension liabilities.

“When my son, Thomas, moves out on his own, he’ll immediately be the not-so-proud-owner of this massive debt, too.

“That’s unfair.

“All Chicagoans are struggling under the burden of our current pension system. This debt harms the poor and disadvantaged and retirees the most.

“The poor don’t get the services they need, and they can least afford to bear this burden. City workers, teachers, police officers and firefighters’ retirement security is at risk, because the current pension system will eventually collapse and they’ll be left with nothing or taxpayers will face a much bigger demand than for the current $45,000 per family – unless it’s reformed.

“Forty percent of Chicago’s net appropriations in 2024, nearly $5 billion, will cover debt and pension costs instead of helping Chicagoans and relieving the city’s massive tax burden. These costs are crowding out more and more basic services every year.

“That’s inequitable.

“And this debt is a big reason so many people move out of Chicago every year – they can’t bear the burden and all the harm it does any longer. So, they leave.

“In 2022 alone, over 94,000 Cook County residents fled. Losing friends, family members and neighbors hurts everyone. It’s bad for business and it tears at the social fabric.

“The good news is in his first budget, Mayor Brandon Johnson recognized this as a big issue by adding $307 million to the city’s pension fund.

“The bad news is projected pension payments for 2024 came in $335 million higher than originally estimated. That more than offsets what the city added to the fund.

“The only way to truly address this problem is through structural reform. Chicago will only fix this by giving taxpayers a seat at the table of Mayor Johnson’s Pension Working Group.

“We know tax hikes aren’t the answer to this problem. Chicago already has some of America’s highest corporate, and commercial and residential property taxes. And 97% of people who left Illinois in a recent Census survey went to states with lower taxes.

“Taxpayers need to be included to explain in plain terms how harmful this crisis is. The pension status quo in Chicago is unfair and inequitable. It hurts the poor and disadvantaged, retirees and all Chicagoans.

“Chicago needs to unite and solve this problem together. And that means empowering taxpayers to help chart a better path.”

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