Number of six-figure Chicago pensioners has tripled in last 4 years

September 1, 2016
By Austin Berg

More government workers are taking home massive yearly pension payments as Chicagoans are battered by tax hikes.

As Chicagoans face a hefty hike in their water and sewer bills to pay for city-worker pensions, the number of retired workers receiving lucrative payouts is booming.

More than 220 retirees collect pensions of at least $100,000 a year from the city’s largest pension fund: the Chicago Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund. That’s triple the 2012 number, according to a report from the Better Government Association, or BGA. Chicago’s water-sewer-tax hike will dump $239 million into this flailing pension system.

Former labor leader and Streets and Sanitation Department employee Dennis Gannon takes home the largest pension in the group at nearly $190,000 year.

Gannon retired from the city in 2004 at age 50. While the city credited him with 33 years of service, Gannon spent more than a third of that time working for private labor unions, not city government, according to a 2011 Chicago Tribune investigation.

Part of Gannon’s lucrative arrangement is due to the fact that city government rehired him for a single day in 1994. And his pension payout is based on his salary as a union official, not as a city worker.

Like virtually all government-worker pensions in Illinois, Gannon’s has grown by 3 percent each year. His first-year payout came in at roughly $130,000, which he received while also earning a union salary, according to the Tribune.

The BGA’s pension findings follow the group’s recent research showing the number of Chicago city workers earning a base salary of $100,000 or more has nearly doubled since 2013.

Despite preparing to pay hundreds of dollars more per year on their water bills, and far more in property-tax increases, Chicagoans have seen no meaningful spending reform from City Hall.

While the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled any changes to unaffordable promised pension benefits unconstitutional, the city has refused to control skyrocketing pension payments with the tools at its disposal: pay freezes to rein in the salary levels that determine pension payouts, rightsizing payrolls, and moving new city workers to defined-contribution retirement plans.

Furthermore, city leaders have responded with deafening silence to calls for a state constitutional amendment that would allow them to bring government-worker pensions in line with what residents can afford.

As the data demonstrate, politicians at City Hall have no interest in acting on behalf of taxpayers. They’d prefer to hit up their constituents’ pocketbooks again and again.

TAGS: Chicago, municipal pensions, pensions