Rauner looks to end pension pickups for legislative staffers

Rauner looks to end pension pickups for legislative staffers

The perk costs taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner released his state budget roadmap for fiscal year 2017 on Feb. 17. It includes a number of encouraging pension-reform recommendations, including ending salary spiking and putting local school districts on the hook for the pensions of high-salary employees.

It also ends the controversial practice of state taxpayers “picking up” the required pension contributions of legislative staffers.

The practice began under former Gov. Jim Edgar when state government offered to pick up the cost of pension contributions for most state employees instead of offering pay raises, former Illinois Senate GOP spokeswoman Patty Schuh told the Illinois News Network, or INN, in 2014. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich ended this practice for most state employees and reinstated pay raises, but the pickup scheme remained intact for legislative staffers.

INN found in 2014 that during the previous five years, the state picked up $145,000 in pension contributions on behalf of legislative staffers.

A few of the staffers given this perk take home higher pay than the $180,000 salary offered to the governor.

House Speaker Mike Madigan’s chief of staff, Tim Mapes, takes home more than $200,000, according to a list released by the Rauner administration. Senate President John Cullerton’s chief of staff, Dave Gross, makes $198,000. Low-level staffers make much less, but often go on to higher-paying careers elsewhere.

There is no good reason cash-strapped taxpayers should cover pension contributions for political employees, and Rauner is right to end the perk. Chicago Public Schools should take note. The practically bankrupt school district has spent $1.3 billion since 2006 covering a portion of teachers’ required pension contributions.

And if state lawmakers really want to show taxpayers that they’re serious about fixing the biggest pension crisis in the nation, they should axe their own pensions altogether.

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