Commentaries posted do not necessarily represent the opinion of LDN.
 Any opinions expressed are those of the writers.


Illinois Policy Institute/ Joe Barnas

Illinois’ 101st General Assembly can be leaders in pension reform by passing a constitutional amendment that allows for changes to future, unearned benefits.

Nearly a third of Illinois’ current state lawmakers have chosen not to participate in the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, as of December 2018.

In total, 55 state lawmakers in the 101st General Assembly – 41 in the House of Representatives and 14 in the Senate – are not enrolled in GARS, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

GARS contains only 14.8 percent of its needed funds and requires a taxpayer bailout each year, making it the state’s worst-funded pension fund. The state’s five pension systems have a combined funding ratio of just 40 percent. Taxpayers end up paying a former state lawmaker’s salary three times over to keep GARS afloat.

As of November 2018, 58 former state lawmakers were collecting yearly pension payouts over $100,000. Of those, 44 have accumulated over $1 million in total pension benefits.

On average, the 58 former lawmakers collecting six-figure pensions have accumulated nearly $1.5 million in total pension benefits – while averaging only $126,300 in total retirement contributions. With a base salary of $67,836, Illinois lawmakers have the second-highest salary among neighboring states – and fifth-highest in the nation.

Lawmaker pensions drain taxpayer funds, provide excessive benefits and involve an inherent conflict of interest. It is an encouraging sign that a large number of state lawmakers have opted out of a system that costs taxpayers millions annually. Although GARS accounts for only a small share of the state’s $133 billion in pension debt, lawmakers could take a meaningful step toward reining in that debt by eliminating GARS altogether.

Most importantly, lawmakers must pass a constitutional amendment that allows for changes to future, not-yet-earned pension benefits, while protecting already-earned benefits. Ultimately, the state should move away from defined-benefit pensions entirely and instead allow government workers to enroll into a 401(k)-style alternative.

Without meaningful reform, the state’s pension funds will inch closer to insolvency – subjecting taxpayers to further tax hikes and jeopardizing government workers’ retirement security, as rising pension costs crowd vital services out of state and local budgets.

[to top of second column]

Has your lawmaker opted out of GARS?

The following lawmakers serving in the 101st General Assembly have chosen not to take a pension:

Rep. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine
Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville
Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park
Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park
Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur
Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines
Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison
Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills
Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego
Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville
Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin
Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield
Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville
Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena
Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma
Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro
Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield
Rep. Dan Swanson, R-Alpha
Rep. Dave Severin, R-Benton
Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville
Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee
Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock
Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-Crystal Lake
Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria
Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore
Rep. Deanne Marie Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst
Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian
Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville
Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur
Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove
Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn
Rep. Chris Miller, R-Oakland
Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield
Rep. Diane Pappas, D-Bloomingdale
Rep. Daniel Ugaste, R-Geneva
Rep. Tom Weber, R-Lake Villa
Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis
Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa
Rep. Amy Grant, R-Wheaton
Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City
Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park
Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake
Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill
Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove
Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia
Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods
Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo
Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg
Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove
Sen. Don DeWitte, R-St. Charles
Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield
Sen. Suzanne Glowiak, D-Western Springs
Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights

Click here to respond to the editor about this article

< Recent commentaries

Back to top