Illinois’ public pension debt is over $140+ billion and growing.
Every year the legislature underfunds it.
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that our pension benefits are constitutionally and contractually guaranteed and must be paid.
To address the problem, the Illinois legislature created a second tier of public employees, those hired after January 1, 2011. Workers in this second tier pay into their retirement system but will never receive a benefit that equals what workers in Tier 1 receive. They must also work more years to be vested.
I am frequently asked why it is fair that teachers and other Illinois public workers should receive a good pension (and we do) while others do not.
My answer is always the same.
It’s not fair.
Everyone should receive what I and other retired public employees receive in order to live a decent and comfortable life in their senior years.
That’s what a humane society would provide its elderly.
The recent pandemic relief bill that was passed in Congress over unanimous Republican Senate objection saved a multiemployer pension plan that was threatened by insolvency.
About 1,400 multiemployer pension plans cover 10.8 million workers, and many of these plans have been at risk of failing financially, through no fault of these workers, retirees, and small businesses. About 124 plans covering 1.4 million participants were projected to run out of money in less than five years, due to Wall Street recklessness, changes in industries over the last 20 years and, most recently, the toll the pandemic has taken on the economy.
Passing a bill saving the multiemployer pensions plans was right and necessary.
But something bigger is needed.
The continual threat to Social Security, public employer pensions and private sector pensions plans puts incredible pressure on the elderly.
In the long term, only a government system that guarantees every person over 65 a guaranteed retirement benefit will do the job.