These are the facts as I think I know them:
Retired Illinois teachers who are enrolled in the Teacher Retirement Insurance Program (TRIP) pay about 40% of the cost into what is called the Teacher Health Insurance System (THIS) managed by a state agency called Central Management Services (CMS).
Smaller amounts are paid into TRIP by the feds, current teachers and local school systems.
Unlike some state employees who receive the health insurance benefit at no cost (good for them, by the way), Illinois teachers do not receive the benefit for free. For the state employees the health insurance benefit was bargained as part of their pension and is protected by the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.
There is a state subsidy to retired teachers, however. Illinois is supposed to match the teacher contribution with a subsidy. The 40% is also considered part of the teacher pension benefit.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that health care benefits were protected by the pension protection clause in a case called Kanerva.
Even so, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has tried to end the state subsidy to TRIP.
While the Governor hasn’t been able to end the subsidy through the front door, he has been successful in ending the subsidy through the back door using Democrat Comptroller Susan Mendoza.
Mendoza says she doesn’t have the money to pay the subsidy, so she hasn’t. She says she is only paying the bills she is obligated to pay.
I’m not sure what that means.
She hasn’t paid the bill since January, 2017.
But until March off 2018 she didn’t tell anyone that she wasn’t paying the $10 million a month into THIS.
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
The state now owes THIS $140 million.
By the way, if your are a member of the Illinois Education Association or IEA Retired or the Illinois Federation of Teachers, this may be the first time you are hearing about this. Both state unions have been unremarkably silent.
This isn’t surprising since their record of defending the rights of retired teachers is not all that great. In fact, it is terrible.
Will Mendoza begin paying the subsidy again? Nobody is saying when or if.
Will the $140 million be paid back? Again, the record isn’t good. The full state pension debt and liability is now over $130 billion and nobody has a plan for paying that back.
Governor Rauner wanted to end the subsidy.