Fittest loser
Article updated: 5/16/2013 5:33 AM

Suburban mayors steel themselves for own pension crisis

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By Doug T. Graham

SPRINGFIELD -- As lawmakers work toward an end-of-May deadline to approve a state budget and deal with $100 billion in pension debt, DuPage County officials lobbied in Springfield Wednesday for legislative attention to their own retirement and budgeting issues.

Speaking at a meeting of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said the state might divert millions of dollars away from the share of state income taxes that Illinois towns are supposed to receive.

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"In my community alone," Craig said. "This would be a loss of nearly half a million dollars a year."

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed freezing how much the towns get from income taxes as the state tries to cope with its massive budget problems.

Craig added that municipalities already tend to receive their income tax allotments late, and by delaying the payments, the state is "threatening the solvency of local governments."

Just as the state is debating how to cut teachers' and state workers' retirement benefits, mayors have lobbied lawmakers for years to make similar cuts to the pension benefits of police officers and firefighters.

"The current municipal public safety pension system is completely unsustainable," said Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn. "In just six years, from 2004 to 2010, the amount municipal taxpayers contributed to public safety pensions more than doubled, from $247 (million) to $511 million."

The mayors said they understand they might have to wait in line. Top Democrats have said they want to work through the state's pension problems first before moving on to local issues.

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