BLOG : Illinois, Wisconsin
Rahm Emanuel's Pension Gamble
by KELI CARENDER | April 11, 2012
Rahm Emanuel, the famous Mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff for President Obama, recently said that the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago have reached "a moment of truth" on the issue of unfunded public employee pensions. Emanuel has been talking about public employee pension reform a lot lately, and he is even pressuring Governor Quinn to join him on this quest.
ecently said that thestate of Illinois and the city of Chicago have reached "a moment of truth" on the issue of unfunded public employee pensions. Emanuel has been talking about public employee pension reform a lot lately, and he is even pressuring Governor Quinn to join him on this quest.
There are very few politicians who are willing to acknowledge the existence of unfunded pension systems. There are fewer politicians who are willing to actually take this issue on and pursue necessary reforms. And there are even fewer politicians of the Democrat Party persuasion who are willing to do any of this. Finding a Democrat like Rahm Emanuel who proactively pursues pension reform brings a sliver of sunshine to some very cloudy skies.
The reforms that local and state politicians need to achieve to prevent a total collapse of the system are major reforms. Will Rahm and others embedded within the notorious machine politics in Illinois and Chicago actually be able to accomplish these crucial changes? Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical that real reform will be realized, due to recent developments in a neighboring state.
Just north of Illinois sits the state of Wisconsin. On June 5, 2012 the citizens of Wisconsin will be participating in yet another set of recall elections. This time, Governor Scott Walker (a Republican), Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (a Republican), and four state senators (all Republicans) will be on the recall ballot. As mentioned above, this is the third round of recall elections in the last couple of years. The prior two recalls involved a state Supreme Court Justice (a former Republican) and nine state senators (six Republicans, three Democrats).
The flurry of recalls stem from the then-newly elected Governor Walker's agenda item (and campaign promise) of repairing the budget without raising taxes through reforming public employee benefits and pensions. The budget repair bill resulted in the Democrats in the state senate going AWOL for weeks in an attempt to stop the bill's passage; tens of thousands of public employees, union members, college students, and run-of-the-mill left-wing activists converging on the Capitol in endless protests; and millions of dollars in damage and overtime for police and first responders, all billed to the taxpayers.
With concerned citizens waiting to see what Mayor Emanuel actually achieves in Chicago, and with the recall circus up north looming large in the background, the question on everyone's mind is, will Rahm Emanuel face his own recall doom soon? Or will his party affiliation spare him the wrath of the public employee unions? The irony of course being Emanuel's heavy involvement in fundraising for Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee Mayor who is challenging Governor Walker in the June recall election.
Rahm better hope that his reforms receive a warmer welcome in Chicago than Walker's did in Wisconsin.