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Quinn Signs Law Aimed at Closing Pension Loophole for Lawmakers

A special session on state pension reform is slated to start Friday.

A day before lawmakers were due back in Springfield for a on pension reform, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation aimed at preventing lawmakers from cashing in on the state pension fund.

House Bill 3969, sponsored by State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, will prevent outgoing and former state legislators from boosting their pensions by taking another government job at a higher salary once they leave office.

The new law will require former lawmakers to either opt out of the higher pension at the new job, or require the hiring government agency’s pension fund to take on the additional cost.

Currently, General Assembly members who began serving before Aug. 22, 1994 and obtain a higher-paying job at the state, county or municipal level can receive a legislative pension based on their new higher salary as long as their new employer has a reciprocal agreement with the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS).

A law passed in 1994 meant that anyone elected to the General Assembly from that point forward would be able to collect a pension based only on their final salary as a member of the Illinois House or Senate, even if they went on to obtain a more lucrative government position. But those who served before the Aug. 22, 1994 cutoff date were exempt from the law.

“This is a loophole that has been abused over the years by former lawmakers and it has to stop,” Cross said.  “A former lawmaker will still be able to continue public service, but if they do it for a limited period of time—just to boost their pension—that will no longer be tolerated at the state’s expense.”

Pension session starts Friday

Late last month, Quinn called the Aug. 17 special session after pension reform talks stalled in May.

At the time, House Speaker Michael Madigan agreed to drop a plan that would shift the teachers pension burden onto local school districts.

But during a meeting last month with Quinn, officials learned that the shift could still be on the table, costing the district an estimated $11 to $12 million.

Board of Education President Roger Bonuchi said school districts could face the additional pension costs, phased in over a period of years, or see the General State Aid proration drop from 95 to 89 percent.

Village trustee Garrett Peck, who is running for the 49th District State Senate seat, weighed in on the special session, accusing Quinn of using it to “push higher property taxes onto suburban and downstate residents” in a press release.

“While I’m happy to see that Governor Quinn is finally taking some small action, unfortunately, he seems to be moving in the wrong direction with his insistence that local property taxpayers should pay for the failure of past governors and legislatures to meet their pension promises, “ Peck said.

“We are in this mess because politicians over promised with little or no regard for what the state could actually afford; then proceeded to inadequately fund the pension programs leading to the crippling $83 billion liability we face today,” Peck added. “Pushing that responsibility onto local property taxpayers is irresponsible and is not the solution.” 

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silentrippy August 17, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I like to see Peck is not for pushing higher property taxes onto homeowners. I'm concerned though about the talk of this problem and the digs at Quinn while not offering another solution of his own. It's easy to criticize the other party but come up with your own solutions and stand by them.
Garrett Peck August 17, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Hi "Silent Rippy", I'd be happy to meet with you in person and go over several business plans I have for Illinois. I should mention that we have received the endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. We have also obtained financial support from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce PAC and Illinois Manufacturer's Association PAC. Please contact my office and we can set up a meeting. I would be happy to discuss these issues in person. It is our policy not to respond to anonymous attacks online. My number is 815-298-1230. Thanks Garrett Peck www.peck4senate.com
my conscience August 17, 2012 at 06:13 PM
silentrippy/Garret - Now that is an example of positive thinking! Good luck ;-)
LMS August 18, 2012 at 04:31 AM
When you say "anonymous attack" are you referring to the respectfully phrased concern of silentrippy who chooses (presumably for safety and privacy reasons) to keep his/her real name off of this very public corner of the internet? Could you please explain to me how/why that comment was referred to as an "anonymous attack"? I hope I won't need to make an appointment with your office to find out the reason. I'm using my initials for safety/privacy reasons, but I'm certainly not attacking anyone. Neither was silentrippy. This board is all about sharing opinions, not playing victim and intimidating thoughtful, respectful posters into silence.
silentrippy August 18, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Hi "Garrett Peck", I offered my opinion about laying out business plans, plans, solutions, issues, and ideas rather than political party attacks as indicated on your website. I don't know where you stand on any of the issues because your press release or website doesn't offer any further information. It would be nice to see this so the voters could educate themselves before entering the voting booth. Continued polarization of the two party system is what makes politics such a messy and controversial business. I'll be happy to meet with you. I'd even like to help you campaign and video record your business plans for Illinois. We could then post it on YouTube so all of the 49th District can see your proposed solutions. Regards, Silent Rippy
LMS August 18, 2012 at 05:58 PM
If you two know each other, please don't be so cryptic. Just say what you have to say so other posters feel comfortable responding to the article without fear of a Garrett Peck cyber-smackdown. Regardless, the questions put forth by silentrippy are valid and of interest. Even if they've been put forward from a position of anonymity, they haven't been put forward as an attack. Our school district most certainly is in a mess, and all possible solutions are of interest.
John Tips August 23, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Our Kudos to Representative Tom Cross and our Governor for having the SPINE to make this happen!
John Tips August 23, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Garrett, as long as your proposals help cut the budget and get Illinois back on the right track - we will support you in your quest. I am a man - freeborn and of sound mind who does not need to remain anonymous! Time and age have taught me to be vocal in my opinion, without the need to hide. Everyones opinion counts as we begin to realize that as a village, county, township and state - we all need to live within our means and not borrow from the future! We would also support eliminating Double time and double time and a half for all government workers in the state. I personally would like to speak to you about the educational fiasco our state has created for young people going to college or university! Expect my call!

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