As Chairman of the Pension Committee for the Cook County Board, I knew that if we were going to succeed in restoring the solvency of the pension fund, keeping the retirement promise to employees and retirees and protecting taxpayers, it had to be a process that included all of those stake holders. And the basis of the discussion had to be a clear set of facts – where is the fund, how did we get here and what are the options to move forward. This is why I have created OpenPensions.Org.
OpenPensions.org, provides access to all pension data, analysis of what changes to contributions or benefits would cost and how changes would impact employees. This is the first time that the status of the County’s pension, the unfunded liability and possible solutions will be available to all – taxpayers, employees, retirees and the civic and business community. Our Truth in Numbers report details how the Cook County Pension Fund fell from over 90% to less than 60% funded in just 10 years. It also presents a set of solutions that will be the basis of engaging all stakeholders across the County.
Every person in the County relies on a functioning Court system, the Sheriff’s office and other vital services the County provides. If we do not address the growing unfunded liability at the pension fund, future contributions will either cause a crushing increase in property taxes or will crowd out funding for County Services. Neither one of those paths is acceptable. There are over 15,000 County retirees and approximately 23,000 active employees, 30% of which are eligible for a pension today. Without reform the pension fund will be insolvent in 2038 and be unable to pay pension benefits or retiree healthcare. Insolvency is also not an option.
There are no shortcuts or quick fixes that can trump starting with the facts, collaborating with labor, retirees, citizens and civic leaders and being willing to make tough decisions to overcome a problem that has been a generation in the making. But there is a path to retirement security; and I invite you to participate in the solution.
Cook County Commissioner – 10th District
Chair, Pension Subcommittee