The state House Retirement Committee on Tuesday moved ahead on bills that could increase the pensions of part-time lawmakers up to 67% and at least triple what House Speaker David Ralston could receive.
The panel voted to do actuarial studies on three bills — all filed in the final days of the 2021 session. The studies — which essentially determine the cost of the bills — have to be completed before the committee can formally act on legislation during the 2022 session, which begins in January.
Part of the reason lawmakers can look at raising their pensions is that the 54-year-old Legislature Retirement System — which provides benefits to retired legislators — currently has far more money in it than is required to pay current and future benefits. That’s in contrast to the much larger teacher and state employee pension systems, which are funded in the 70%-to-80% range.
The legislative system, like those for other employees, has been funded partially by payroll deductions and partially by the state. But in recent years it’s been in such good shape that officials said taxpayers didn’t have to add anything to the fund.
Author(s): James Salzer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Publication Date: 18 May 2021
Publication Site: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Pension reform is a favorite campaign refrain of candidates across party lines. But when it comes up signing up for their own state retirement benefits, few Illinois lawmakers say no.
Of the 177 legislators in the current Illinois General Assembly, 112 signed up for a pension through the optional state retirement system. It provides an average monthly benefit of $5,512 to retirees for life. Lawmakers are eligible to retire and take benefits at age 55 with eight years of service or at age 62 with four years.
Serving in the General Assembly came with a base salary of $69,464 in 2020 and is considered a nearly full-time job, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan legislative association. Others consider it part-time.
Rockford state Rep. Dave Vella (D) has filed a bill which would prohibit future legislators from receiving a taxpayer funded pension when they leave office.
Vella also announced his decision to refuse a pension.
“We need to make sure we are not wasting resources to fund unnecessary perks for politicians,” said Vella. “As our state continues to face financial problems, we should not be adding new financial burdens by promising to pay for the retirements of career politicians.”
Because of a pension sweetener for politicians that Madigan helped create, the former speaker’s pension will spike more than $66,000 the year after his first full year of retirement, then grow 3% each year thereafter.
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan will start receiving $7,100 in monthly pension benefits starting in March, but just more than a year later his benefits jump 78% to $12,600 per month.
State Representative Amy Elik (R-Fosterburg) kept her promise to Metro East taxpayers by rejecting the lawmaker pension. The pension benefit is available to all lawmakers serving in the part-time legislature.
“I refused the taxpayer-funded pension because the state can’t afford to offer this lavish benefit to lawmakers anymore,” said Rep. Elik. “The pension offered to lawmakers is swimming in debt with over $314 million in unfunded liabilities. By rejecting the pension, I am reducing the debt forced onto Illinois taxpayers.”