56 Illinois state lawmakers have refused to take a pension
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, 56 state lawmakers in the 101st General Assembly – 41 in the House of Representatives and 15 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.
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
- Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry