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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

New Bill Could Allow Illinois Municipalities To File For Bankruptcy

state of Illinois

A proposal in the Illinois House would let cities and towns declare bankruptcy.

Many municipalities say they’re struggling to pay for local police and fire pensions. Backers of bankruptcy say it would give mayors more leverage in negotiating with unions.

Rep. Ron Sandack says it ought to give cities more tools to fix their own finances. Sandack says letting cities threaten bankruptcy would give them more leverage in dealing with unions.

“The public pension situations, with their police and fire — there’s not a real level playing field in those negotiations."

Sandack says even in bankruptcy, cities would still have to negotiate contract changes, like happened in Detroit.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, says police and fire pensions are no more costly than those of other city workers.

“So while it’s convenient to blame police and fire for all of the financial woes of our communities, unfortunately it’s not grounded in fact."

Unlike a business that declares bankruptcy, cities would not be subject to liquidation. Rather, they could “adjust" their financial obligations, including with unions. About half the states in America allow municipal bankruptcies.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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