While it only has one.
How can this be? The Illinois Policy Institute explains that starting in 2021, the city's contribution to the fire-fighters' pension fund will equal 79 percent of the actual payroll.
In other words, taxpayers would be paying a whole lot for people actually working and almost as much for people not working. A shadow workforce?
It gives new meaning to the old Chicago Way expression, "ghost payrollers," a reference to patronage workers who get paid but don't show up for work. The new Ghost Payrollers.
This startling fact was part of an Illinois Policy Institute analysis the city's deeply confounding financial mess that Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to address in her state of the city speech at 6 p.m. Thursday. This makes for truly depressing reading. After reading this analysis, I frankly don't see how Lightfoot will come up with a realistic way to extract Chicago from this mess.
Unless things change.
We're not talking about a few additional taxes here and more fees there. We're talking major changes that the special interests--most notably the Chicago Teachers Union--will fight to the death. The death being that of the city of Chicago.
Note in the accompanying chart just how much of the budget pension and borrowing costs consume. Think of all the good that would do for the city if all that money was directed to more pressing needs. To bring that imbalance under control, the Institute recommends these changes:
- The only way to save workers’ retirements is to adjust the Illinois Constitution’s pension clause. We recommend the mayor endorse an amendment to the state constitution to protect earned benefits while slowing the growth in new pen- sion obligations.
- Examples of benefit changes could include: moving retirees from guaranteed compounding post retirement raises to true cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation; raising retirement ages for younger workers; capping maximum pensionable salaries; and implementing COLA holidays for retirees who have benefited from annual adjustments that far exceeded inflation.
Tough medicine that. But that's only part of what needs to be done. If Lightfoot is honest, it's going to be a rough flight.
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