On Friday, Chicago’s five mayoral candidates debated in front of the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, seeking the newspaper’s endorsement.
Pensions was among the first issues to come up – and while everyone agreed that Chicago’s pension debt needs to be tamed, the candidates were largely mum on specific ways to accomplish that goal aside from a few tax proposals.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
You might think there would be no avoiding the issue that is sure to dominate the next mayor’s agenda.
Unfortunately, a lack of specifics from Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it easier for the others to dodge as well.
The mayor couldn’t be budged from what I’ll call his “Trust Me” speech in which he recounts his track record on financial matters, which includes more responsible annual budgeting than his predecessors plus legislative deals that reduce pension benefits and increase pension contributions for some city employees and retirees.
With a great deal of prodding, Emanuel acknowledged he’s not ruling out a property tax increase to help bring down the city’s huge pension liability.
Fioretti, who flatly rules out a property tax increase, is the only candidate ready to put alternative revenue sources on the table. His calls for a commuter tax and/or a financial transactions tax on Chicago’s trading exchanges undoubtedly have some populist appeal.
At least Fioretti is willing to stick his neck out for something. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia couldn’t have been more vague about what he has in mind, arguing there are still too many unknowns about the scope of the problem until the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled on pension reform legislation.
Garcia also said he opposes reducing pension benefits to current retirees, which was a key part of Emanuel’s pension legislation. That means Garcia would need to find even more revenue.
Chicago voters have just three more weeks to demand real answers.
Watch the video of the debate here.
Photo by bitsorf via Flickr CC License