Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel increased retiree health premiums by 40 percent this week, and it didn’t take long for his challenger, Bob Fioretti, to criticize the decision. Fioretti, currently an alderman, told the Sun-Times:
“This will place an unsustainable financial burden on our retirees, who are already facing cuts to their pensions,” the 2nd Ward alderman said.
“Our retirees dedicated their lives to making our city work. How does this administration repay them? By breaking its promises and pushing struggling Chicagoans closer to poverty. It’s unconscionable at a time when we should be looking to build our [economy] from the middle out and lifting up our working families.”
Fioretti was asked where he would find the $27 million that Emanuel hopes to save in the city’s 2015 budget by continuing to phase out Chicago’s 55 percent subsidy for retiree health care.
“A lot of this they’ve known was coming down the road for a long time. It’s long-term bad planning. We should work to find ways to fund the promises we made,” he said.
“There are ways — whether it’s looking at a [1 percent] commuter tax [or] complete reform of TIFs — all of those are the real tough decisions we have to make to move this city forward. Those are solutions my administration will find.”
The city defended the premium increase as a fiscal necessity. From the Sun-Times:
Budget and Management spokesman Carl Gutierrez has called the increase “part of our efforts to right the city’s financial ship” and save Chicago taxpayers $27 million in 2015.
“For pre-Medicare retirees, there will be an additional reduction in their subsidy by only 25 percent, and the city is offering four plans to provide them with options for health care and to reduce their costs, including an option that would reduce their premiums,” he wrote in an email.
Bob Fioretti is running against Emanuel in Chicago’s mayoral race. Emanuel’s other main challenger, Karen Lewis, has not yet commented on the premium hike.
Photo by Pete Souza