Pension reform is on tap Thursday as legislative leaders meet again with Gov. Pat Quinn.
While all leaders agree pension reform must happen, there continues to be a division on how to shift to suburban and Downstate school districts the pension costs for their employees that the state now pays. Taxpayers in Chicago already pay for their school employees’ pensions.
Republicans believe a shift would raise property taxes, while Quinn and other Democrats don’t think it will. “When you look at the facts it’s pretty clear that when you phase in a requirement that local school districts have to pay the future retirement costs of those who work for them, for those who they negotiate contracts with over a period of time, if you phase in that requirement of having to pay for the future retirement costs say over 12 years or 15 years, there is, I think to my mind, an imperceptible impact on property taxes; there is no impact on property taxes,” Quinn said.
State Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) disagrees. She thinks a cost shift will eventually raise property taxes. “This is a cost someone will pay. It will go to property taxes,”Radogno said. “If someone is paying it, it is impossible for property taxes not to increase.”
Radogno believes the cost shift proposal is a separate issue from pension reform and should be dealt with as such. “I’m for pension reform. I’m for dealing with cost shift separate and apart because it’s very complicated,” Radogno says. She says there is a viable pension reform plan out there that would see enough legislative support to pass. “We have on the table a plan that will save $60 [billion] to $80 billion,” Radogno said. “We can have a vote on it and get those savings.”
Quinn says since the last leaders’ meeting there has been a fact-finding mission to better understand what impact a cost shift would have. He has said he wants to sign a pension reform bill before the start of the new fiscal year July 1, but has acknowledged that talks could go through the summer.