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The 2013 Pension 40: Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel

Chicago can’t wait on pension reform, Mayor Rahm Emanuel told state lawmakers in a June op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. Previously President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Emanuel, 53, was elected mayor in 2010. He’s made it his mission to rejuvenate the Windy City, but pensions are a big obstacle. The Illinois state pension system has the worst funding ratio in the country, and Chicago’s is in poor shape too:  With an unfunded pension liability of $26.8 billion, the city recently suffered bond-­rating downgrades. “We can do everything else right as a city, but without fundamental changes to our pension system, the tough choices and critical investments we have made will be for naught,” Chicago-born Emanuel wrote in his op-ed. Last year he took the unusual step of addressing the state legislature, saying that “whatever political capital I have earned, I am willing to invest in finding a comprehensive pension solution.” Change, however, has been slow in coming. This spring Chicago police union members voted down an agreement Emanuel had struck with their leadership to support reforms. Labor has vowed to fight a slate of city pension proposals, backed by the mayor, that was introduced in the legislature on the last day of the spring session. However, Emanuel has made some progress on the accompanying issue of retiree health care costs.

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