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Chicago Mayor Urges Cooperation on Pension Issues

Dana Vollmer / WCBU
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at the Women of Influence Forum, 12/4/19

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants to work with Peoria and other Illinois cities on issues of shared concern.

"There's a lot of things that are happening in Peoria that mirror what is happening in Chicago," Lightfoot said. "Different scale, obviously, but certainly we're facing some of the same kind of challenges, particularly around pensions." 

Both cities struggle with large unfunded pension liabilities. Chicago's oustanding pension debt across four funds totaled $30 billion at the end of last year. Peoria currently faces $20 million in pension costs. In recent years, the city has cut police, fire, and other departments through attrition to save money to put towards pensions. It's also introduced new fees. 

Lightfoot, who became mayor of Chicago last May, said while she isn't well-known outside Chicago yet, She wants to build relationships with leaders across the state. Lightfoot says she and Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis have bonded over the issue.

"The pension crisis is really affecting what we can do in service delivery to our residents and our local municipalities. So it's important for us, I think, to really be together on these issues," she said. 

Lightfoot advocated for mayors across the state to band together to lobby the Illinois General Assembly on the issue. Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently supported a bill to merge most of the state's police and fire pensions, but he said he doesn't support any actions to cut or reduce the constitutionally-protected benefits. 

The mayor met with state representative Jehan Gordon-Booth before giving a speech Wednesday at Bradley University. She also spoke at the Women of Influence Forum at East Peoria's Par-a-dice Hotel and Casino.