Emanuel Considers Utility Tax to Fund Chicago Pensions

With another property tax increase as unpalatable as ever, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is considering levying a larger tax on utilities as a mechanism for raising funds to help stabilize the city’s underfunded pension systems, according to sources who talked to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel was coy on the subject when speaking this week, however.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Unwilling to hit property owners for the third time in one year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to raise the city’s utility taxes to save the largest of Chicago’s four city employee pension funds, City Hall sources said Monday.

Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown acknowledged that the city needs “in the ballpark” of $250 million to $300 million in new annual revenue to shore up a Municipal Employees Pension fund with 71,000 members and $18.6 billion in unfunded liabilities.

After a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago on Monday aimed at touting the progress made to right the financial ship, Budget Director Alex Holt refused to say where Emanuel would find the massive sum needed to save the Municipal Employees pension fund.

“Everything’s on the table and we’ll hopefully be in the position of announcing both the benefit reforms and the funding plan in the coming weeks,” Holt said.

“We’ve got to look at every possible source,” she said. “This is about solving a long-term problem and making sure that we’ve got funding sufficient to do that.”

Brown read from the same script. “Everything is on the table and we’ll be telling you our solution shortly,” she said. “We’re looking at every option. The mayor is committed to putting forth a solution for the Municipal Fund. Right now, we’re publicly considering everything.”

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