Morton Times-News | Reform group reveals Pekin-area pensions

President and Founder of Taxpayers United of America’s, Jim Tobin, was quoted by Morton Times-News about the recent pensions analysis of Pekin and Tazewell County released by TUA.

A Chicago-based tax reform group found no surprises when it studied pensions that retired Pekin-area government workers receive, its top official said Tuesday.
Just “the same blood-sucking system (as) all over Illinois,” said Jim Tobin.

“For every $1 (public) retirees put into their pensions, taxpayers are putting in $3.76,” Tobin said.
The small non-profit watchdog agency has revealed pensions of retirees from police and fire departments, municipalities and school districts throughout the state for the past 10 years. It’s focused on 28 cities over the past two years, Tobin said at a news event in East Peoria.
Its recent analysis of Pekin and Tazewell County school districts, including Illinois Central College, shows former top officials of those entities receive pensions that, in some cases, could exceed what they earned while working, Tobin said.
Former ICC presidents John Erwin and Thomas K. Thomas take in about $188,000 and $206,000, respectively, each year. Yet Thomas contributed only $148,054 and Erwin $318,251 to their pension funds, the TUA study revealed.
Top pensions for former Pekin employees go to former Police Chief Tim Gillespie, at $95,362 a year, and former Fire Chief John Janssen, at $88,750, according to the study.
Most former city employees and teachers receive pensions between $55,000 and $20,000, the study showed. Tobin acknowledged that many among them do not receive Social Security.

“The bottom 100 are pulling down about $1,000 or so” a year. “Many of them worked one or two years. Why they get anything at all” surprises him, “but that’s part of the system.”
It’s one of “legalized theft,” that must be corrected if the state is to ever become solvent, said Tobin, who taught economics at Elmhurst College and served as a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank for about 20 years.
While the Pekin City Council and other local governments can do little at their level to stem the flow of tax dollars to pensions, Tobin said they can join with others to pressure for reforms in Springfield and support Gov. Bruce Rauner, “who’s trying to do the right thing.”

Daily Herald | Opposition surfaces for Round Lake Park police pension proposal

Jim Tobin, President and Founder of Taxpayers United of America was featured in an article by The Daily Herald about opposing the Round Lake Park referendum.

Formal opposition has surfaced regarding a Round Lake Park ballot initiative seeking permission to borrow $5.4 million to boost the police pension fund.
Taxpayers United of America’s Chicago branch highlighted the Round Lake Park referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot in a news release expressing concern about governments seeking more money across the state.
The organization contends the request should be rejected because what the village wants to do would be similar to using one credit card to pay down debt on another.
Round Lake Park Trustee Scott Murar, a spokesman for the proposal, and Mayor Linda Lucassen did not return messages seeking comment.
Under the Round Lake Park proposal, the village would borrow the $5.4 million to strengthen the police pension fund by issuing bonds to investors. If voters give permission to borrow the money, it would cost about $100 more annually for an owner of a house valued at $125,200, officials said.
Jim Tobin, president of Taxpayers United of America, said the village would be better off pushing for legislation allowing financially struggling Illinois municipalities to declare bankruptcy or closing the police department and contracting for service to slash expenses.
Tobin noted Rockford’s Larry Morrissey is working with other mayors in support of a bill that would let towns reorganize in bankruptcy court to get relief from pension debt and unfunded state mandates. He said public employee pension costs have skyrocketed to the point where many towns cannot afford to direct money to the funds.
“It’s basically a problem that’s unsustainable,” Tobin said Wednesday.
Round Lake Park’s police pension fund is at 23 percent to 24 percent, believed to be one of the lowest in Illinois. Proponents say the problem is a state tax cap limits how much the village can collect from property owners, thus thwarting any effort to boost the police pension fund.
Officials said while the village is meeting minimum contribution requirements, it is about half what should go into the police pension pool annually. The village has been falling about $240,000 short each year.
In April 2013, voters rejected a request for a property tax rate hike to raise money for the pension fund. Village officials said police layoffs are possible if the Nov. 8 request is rejected.

Madison St Clair Record | More protests planned by Illinois taxpayers looking for change

The latest protest by the groups Taxpayers United of America and the Illinois Tax Revolution was covered by Madison St. Clair Record.

CHICAGO – More protests are being planned by Illinois taxpayers seeking relief from steep property tax increases.
Protests are being led by Taxpayers United of America and the Illinois Tax Revolution in an effort to spark policy changes in Illinois government.
“We are hoping to have an impact on the state’s finances and get legislation passed to freeze or roll back property taxes,” Jared Labell, executive director of Taxpayers United of America told the Record.
The latest protest by the group was held on Oct 12 at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago with more being planned throughout the state all the way into the new year. The organizations plan to converge again during the November veto session in Springfield and is working with local taxpayers to coordinate more areas for protest.
“We absolutely plan on continuing these activities through the winter as conditions permit, starting off well into the new year with keeping this issue at the forefront,” said Labell.
According to Labell, there are several instances where taxpayers feel stuck because they can’t sell their homes because the property taxes are too high in the state. These people feel trapped and are in need of change., he said.
He added that people want tax relief as well as reform to government pensions, consolidation of school districts and consolidation or elimination of some of the approximately 7,000 taxing entities in Illinois.
In the latest Freedom in the 50 States analysis from the Cato Institute, Illinois ranked 44th for fiscal, regulatory and personal freedom policies. For local taxes it came in at 49th and government debt it was at 44th in the U.S.
For Taxpayers United of America, this has become a non-partisan issue that is spread across all political boundaries and affects every Illinois resident regardless of party affiliation.
“This isn’t simply a partisan issue,” said Labell. “This affects everyone across the political spectrum. It’s a multi-faceted problem and there’s a lot of reasons we’re in the current situation we’re in.”
There is hope for Illinois as Labell predicts change soon as the organizations have gained support from some legislators.
“I think we are nearing a time of significant political change,” he said. “I don’t know what the tipping point will be but I think the finances are in such a terrible state right now that I think there is an opportunity to bridge gaps across the political spectrum and work together to try to affect change within the state.”