10 months, 3 weeks ago By Benjamin Yount, Illinois Watchdog
Illinois’ public employees could pay less for their own retirements
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ public employees could pay less for their own retirements.
And, they still could leave the job as young as 55 and cash in a pension for as much money as they can get, leaving taxpayers on the hook for most of the costs under the latest pension “reform” plan in the state.
Details are leaking out of Illinois’ special pension committee, the group of lawmakers tasked with fixing the state’s worst-in-the-nation pension systems. But state Rep. Elaine Nekrtiz, D-Northbrook, who leads the panel, said nothing is final.
“No one said ‘yes,’ but no one said ‘no’ either,” Nekritz told the Chicago Tribune.
Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, who is on the pension committee and is running for governor, said there is nothing to vote on yet.
“It’s just a numbers game at this point,” Brady told Illinois Watchdog.
But those numbers do not appear to be stacked in favor of the 95 percent of Illinois taxpayers who do not receive a public pension.
The latest compromise plan is suppose to save Illinois taxpayers $145 billion over the next 30 years. It’s less than the so-called Madiagn plan, SB1, which would save a reconfigured $163 billion by forcing pension changes. But the committee’s plan would save far more than the so-called Cullerton plan, SB2404, which would save just $57.6 billion by giving employees a series of choices.
Automatic cost-of-living adjustments, which have been 3 percent, appear to be on their way out. Instead, pensions adjustments would grow at a rate of about half the amount of inflation. The We Are One Illinois Coalition, which represents state public employee labor unions, said that alone will cost retirees about 25 percent of their retirement benefits.
“Teachers, police, nurses, caregivers … deserve better from the conferees. So does the Illinois Constitution, which lawmakers are sworn to uphold and which provisions of the committee’s outline would directly violate,” a coalition statement read.
Brady was quick to say that “most of the reform savings would come from COLA adjustments.”
But public employees would benefit from three numbers: 1 percent, age 55 and $66,816.
Public employees in Illinois — teachers, state cops, university workers and the like — actually would pay 1 percent less toward their retirement plans than they do now. The average now is about 9 percent.
There are no plans in the latest pension-reform proposal to raise the retirement age. Many public employees could retire at 55 and collect pensions for the rest of their lives.
State Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, said unless Illinois fundamentally changes the overly generous retirement benefits for public workers, the state will not be able to afford its pension promises.
“We don’t have the (financial) freedom o do half measures. We need to be bold,” Morrison added. “I continue to believe that moving to a 401(k) plan is the only real solution that’s fair for both taxpayers and public employees.”
The average teacher pension in Illinois is $66,816 a year, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
OpenTheBooks.com founder Adam Andrzejewski said that nearly 9,000 public retirees in Illinois make at least $96,000 a year from their pension, or about $8,000 a month.
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.