As the Illinois General Assembly prepares to vote on Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan’s bill to cut teacher pension payments, the Chicago Tribune features the data that shows how these same pols rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in their own pension payments.
While a retired teacher downstate is getting $20,000 a year.
More than a third of all retirees in the legislative pension fund make more money now than they did when they served in government. Ten percent of them receive more than $100,000 in pension payouts every year, benefits that come on top of the free or deeply discounted health insurance that retired lawmakers have long received.
The result is that at a time when the state has $8 billion in unpaid bills and is cutting funding for public schools, health care and other services, Illinois is sending out ever larger retirement checks to former lawmakers. Their pension fund is also the state’s worst-funded plan, with just 21 percent of the assets needed to cover what the legislature has promised itself over the years.
House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton played roles in many of the pension perks now on the books but are quick to point out that most of the loopholes that allowed lawmakers to spike their pensions have been closed. The 3 percent perk ended in 2003.
But anyone who was in office before those changes took effect can still benefit. And as lawmakers consider reforms, many of them say it would be unconstitutional to eliminate even the most outrageous pension perks once they’ve been bestowed.
Take Madigan’s case. If he retired this year after roughly 40 years in office, the 1989 law would boost his annual pension from about $81,000 to $131,000 according to current figures from GARS. That’s 137 percent of his current salary. Cullerton’s pension would go up by roughly $31,000 to $112,000 a year, or 117 percent of what he now earns. Both lawmakers helped advance, and eventually voted for, the legislation that created the perk for longtime lawmakers.
Be sure to watch the video in the Tribune report. It documents how the big-time and small-change elected officials are making out like pension bandits at the expense of regular government employees.