Quinn to receive millions in pension payments

Quinn to receive millions in pension payments

Former Gov. Pat Quinn contributed less than $200,000 to his retirement, but is set to draw more than $2 million in pension benefits over his lifetime.

When he ceded his office to Gov. Bruce Rauner on Jan. 13, former Gov. Pat Quinn gave up a $180,000 salary as well.

But that same day marked the beginning of a lucrative consolation prize: monthly pension checks that will add up to $137,000 in Quinn’s first year of retirement, according to WUIS 91.9. The former governor will receive $3 million in pension payments over his lifetime should the Illinois Supreme Court strike down Senate Bill 1, a pension-reform law passed in 2013. Should it be upheld, Quinn would still receive over $2 million.

Over his public tenure, which included stints as the state treasurer and lieutenant governor, Quinn contributed a mere $190,000 toward his pension as of November 2014, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. This contribution is not sufficient to cover even the first 18 months of benefits he will collect.

Most of Quinn’s payout – $128,928 in his first year of retirement – will come from the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, perhaps the worst-funded state pension system in the country. GARS has 17 cents for every dollar needed to meet future obligations, enough to cover payments for the next two-and-a-half years. With close to twice as many legislators drawing money out of GARS than contributing to it, the system resembles a collapsing Ponzi scheme. Taxpayers contributed over eight times more than legislators into the system in 2014 just to keep it afloat.

Former Illinois Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar are collecting similarly generous pensions – $143,181 and $205,425, respectively. (Edgar collects $147,357 from GARS and $58,068 from the State Universities Retirement System, as he taught at the University of Illinois.)

These outlandish benefits and taxpayer bailouts raise the question, why do Illinois lawmakers receive pensions at all?

More than two dozen members of the Illinois General Assembly have opted not to receive a pension. And state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, filed a bill on Jan. 14 that would end new membership to GARS beginning Jan. 1, 2016, effectively eliminating pensions for all new lawmakers going forward.

This type of common-sense reform would put a stop to overly generous pensions for future politicians and eliminate a blaring conflict of interest in the ongoing pension debate.

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