Pension board votes to revoke lawmaker pension for Hastert

Eric Kohn

Eric Kohn is marketing manager at the Illinois Policy Institute.

Eric Kohn
April 26, 2017

Pension board votes to revoke lawmaker pension for Hastert

Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert had been receiving nearly $30,000 annually from the underfunded General Assembly Retirement System.

Lawmakers on the board for the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, voted 5-2 April 26 to revoke former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert’s pension, the Chicago Tribune reported. Hastert had been receiving an annual pension payment of $28,025 from his six years in the Illinois House of Representatives before being elected to Congress.

Hastert pleaded guilty in October 2015 to one count of illegally structuring bank withdrawals to evade bank currency-reporting requirements, all stemming from the cover-up of his sexual abuse of high school wrestlers he coached during his 17 years at Yorkville High School. He received a 15-month prison sentence in April 2016, which he began serving two months later.

Hastert’s release from prison is scheduled for August 2017.

Illinois law allows for state lawmaker pensions to be revoked if the person commits a crime related to his or her time in the General Assembly. State Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, argued that Hastert’s hush-money payment crimes were committed to protect his political career, allowing the GARS board to revoke his lawmaker pension.

Similarly, state law allows for cancellation of a teacher’s pension if the person commits felonies related to his or her time as a teacher. Previously, Hastert also received a $16,622 per year pension from the Teachers’ Retirement System, which was revoked shortly after his guilty plea in April 2016.

Illinois has an unfunded pension liability of $130 billion, and GARS is the most underfunded of all of Illinois’ pension systems.

In 2016, GARS had only 16 percent of the funding necessary to meet its future obligations. And it’s taxpayers left footing the bill for the state’s retired lawmakers, with the average estimated total pension payout to a retired legislator coming in at over $2.1 million.

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