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Pension Benefit Is A Taxpayer Rip-off, Decatur Herald & Review Sunday Editorial

By the Decatur H&R Editorial Staff Herald-Review.com

Most Illinois residents don’t need another example to prove that the powerful in this state are treated differently than ordinary citizens.

But here’s an example that is so outlandish, it’s almost hard to believe it’s true.

Union leaders and others in Illinois are receiving lucrative pensions, paid by taxpayers, even though these folks have spent little time actually working in the public sector.

As one example, the retired union leader of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, who spent 12 years teaching in public schools, is receiving a public pension of more than $160,000 per year. The large pension reflects his 20-year career at the union, not his time in the classroom.

Also, the second-highest teacher’s pension in Illinois history is being paid to the former president of the National Education Association, the teacher’s union in Washington, D.C. This retired union official spent eight years teaching in Chicago. But his retirement check of $20,000 per month is based on his time and salary as leader of the teachers union. Even though most of his career was spent in Washington, Illinois taxpayers are funding his retirement.

There have been cases of similar abuses in the city of Chicago, at state park foundations, trade associations and in other groups. Another teachers union official was allowed to receive a public pension after working for one day in the schools as a substitute teacher.

These actions are all legal. Ethically, this is wrong.

Unions, park and district foundations and other organizations are not open to the public. Their leaders aren’t elected by taxpayers, and the pay those leaders receive is not subject to public scrutiny. They have no right to participate in a pension plan for public employees.

That right is granted to them, however, because of several pension changes made years ago by the General Assembly. Many former and a few current legislators were involved, including current House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

This system is a blatant rip-off of taxpayers and public employees who rightfully earn their pensions by serving the public for years.

These abuses were uncovered through the use of a new public-access website: www.openthebooks.com. It’s the creation of For the Good of Illinois, a group put together by former gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski. His group deserves credit for casting sunlight on a lot of Illinois records. State government deserves criticism for not making such information readily available.

There is a bill in the General Assembly that would stop any future abuse of Illinois pensions. Andrzejewski fears that Senate Bill 2499 either will be ignored or watered down so it effectively does nothing.

Even the most ethically challenged politician, however, should be able to see that this system needs correcting. The public employee pension system has many issues that need to be solved, but it’s pretty clear that a pension system for public employees should be limited to those folks and not extended to highly paid officials of unions and other organizations.

Copyright 2011 Herald-Review.com.
Read more: Pension benefit is a taxpayer rip-off http://www.herald-review.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_62bb0878-02b3-11e1-b898-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1cNBn99fI From the Herald & Review


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