Time to end Illinois lawmaker pensions

Time to end Illinois lawmaker pensions

The General Assembly Retirement System, which provides pensions to retired legislators, is broke.

If you think politicians are going to fix Illinois’ crumbling pensions, you may want to see what they’ve done to their own pension fund.

It’s broke.

In fact, the General Assembly Retirement System, or GARS, makes Illinois’ other state-run pensions look healthy by comparison.

GARS, which provides pensions to 294 retired legislators, is nearly out of cash. And without massive taxpayer contributions, legislators won’t get their pension checks. The fund has only enough assets on hand to make pension payouts for the next 2.5 years.

Here are the facts:

  • GARS has only 17% of the $303 million it needs to invest to meet its long-term benefit payouts of nearly $900 million.
  • Its $52 million in assets cover only 2.5 years of annual benefit payouts to legislators.
  • The state – meaning taxpayers – will contribute eight times more into the pension system than legislators next year to keep GARS afloat.
  • Today there are more GARS pensioners drawing money out of the system (294) than active legislators contributing into it (176).

GARS is no longer sustainable. And with more pensioners than active employees, it’s become nothing more than a collapsing Ponzi scheme.

The collapse of GARS proves that Illinois politicians have no business running the pension funds of state government workers and retirees. State worker retirements don’t belong in the hands of politicians. All five state-run pension systems are suffering from decades of fake reforms and bad judgment. And there is no reason to believe that pension reform under the same politicians should yield different results.

Legislators’ failure to manage their own pension fund raises the question: Why do Illinois legislators get a pension in the first place?

Being an Illinois legislator was never meant to be a career position like that of a teacher, police officer or a fireman. In fact, in Illinois being a politician is legally a part-time job.

But Illinois’ supposedly part-time legislators have become career politicians, in part because they are provided full-time benefits:

  • Lawmakers receive pensions equal to 85% of their final salary after 20 years of service.
  • Legislator pensions increase each year through an automatic, compounded 3% cost-of-living adjustment.

Taxpayers are footing the bill for cushy legislative salaries and incredibly generous pension packages in return for continued fiscal mismanagement and the collapse of the state’s pension systems.

It’s time to end legislator pensions. Part-time legislators shouldn’t be receiving full-time benefits.

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