Rahm Emanuel wants to legalize marijuana, open casino in Chicago to tackle pension debt

The mayor is attempting to pay down the city's ballooning $28 billion public-pension debt before leaving office.
Image:  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attends a police graduation ceremony in Chicago on Nov. 19, 2018.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel attends a police graduation ceremony in Chicago on Nov. 19, 2018.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

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By Associated Press

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to legalize marijuana and open a city-owned casino to help pay down the city's $28 billion public-pension debt.

Emanuel's proposal also calls for issuing up to $10 billion in pension obligation bonds and changing the state constitution to allow cuts to retirees' cost-of-living increases.

The fix proposed Wednesday comes as Emanuel prepares to leave office in May, and with the city's required annual pension payments set to balloon over the next few years.

Emanuel outlined steps Chicago has taken in recent years to stabilize the funds, including raising taxes. But he called the pension crisis a "flashing yellow light of uncertainty and instability" for Chicago.

Democratic Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker has said he supports legalizing marijuana and is open to expanding gambling.