Journalist in Residence
State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, said he regrets ever joining the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, and now he wants out.
“When I entered the Legislature I was like a deer in the headlights,” he said. “I just signed up for the pension. But that’s not why I ran for office, and given the state’s fiscal condition I think it would be showing good leadership for me to just withdraw from the system altogether.”
The only problem is, he can’t.
State law doesn’t allow for the lawmaker, who entered the upper chamber in 2008, to drop out of the system.
So he recently introduced a bill to allow lawmakers and other members of GARS to voluntarily leave the system.
“I already have a good pension from my years in law enforcement and I certainly don’t need a second pension,” he said. “A number of people ran for the Legislature this time around saying they weren’t going to participate in the pension system. This gives those of us already in the Legislature an opportunity not to participate.”
But state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, expressed skepticism about the legislation.
“To me, this is a great big red herring,” he said. “It’s easy for someone like Sen. Bivins who is already going to get to get a government pension to say he is not going to take one. The fact of the matter is, you could eliminate pensions for the entire Legislature and not make a dent in our pension problems.”
Under new accounting standards, the state’s overall pension shortfall exceeds $200 billion.
GARS is only 18.5 percent funded. Of the state’s five pension systems, it is the most underfunded.
Bivins’ bill does not address the state’s other pension funds.