President and founder of Taxpayers United of America (TUA), Jim Tobin, was quoted by Madison Record about the latest IMRF Pension data release.
The top Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) beneficiaries in Madison and St. Clair counties are among the state’s highest paid. And both of them – a lawmaker and a judge – are accruing benefits in other pension systems that will provide even more tax payer-supported income for life when they retire a second time.
State Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), who served as Madison County State’s Attorney for 14 years (1988-2002), began receiving IMRF pension benefits one month after he was elected to the 56th Senate District in November 2002.
According to Taxpayers United of America (TUA) pension analysis, Haine currently receives $148,042 annually from IMRF. He began receiving pension payments on Dec. 1, 2002 at age 58. He retired after 26.5 years of credited service at the county, which included work as a public defender and county board member.
To date, Haine has received $1,714,021 in IMRF payments. He contributed $110,031 into the system. Based on a life expectancy of 85, Haine will receive an estimated $3,033,922 in lifetime benefits from the IMRF.
His current salary as state senator is $67,836, plus he receives $111 per diem while in session. His total tax-payer supported annual income is approximately $228,804.
When he is no longer a state legislator, Haine will be eligible for benefits from another state pension system – the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS).
In St. Clair County, Circuit Judge Robert Haida, who served as St. Clair County State’s Attorney for 19 years (1991-2010), began receiving IMRF pension benefits in 2012, two years after he was elected to the Twentieth Judicial Circuit.
Haida currently receives $154,084 annually in IMRF benefits. He was 55 when he retired as state’s attorney; he is credited with having worked 24.6 years as a county employee, which also included time as an assistant state’s attorney.
To date, Haida has received $520,442 in IMRF payments. He contributed $209,176 into the system, and will have received an estimated $4,283,142 at age 85.
As a circuit judge he is paid $178,835, bringing his total tax-payer supported annual income to $332,919.
When he is no longer a judge, Haida will be eligible for benefits from another state pension system – the Judicial Retirement System (JRS).
The state senator and circuit judge – both of whom seek to keep their seats in the November general election – were named to the TUA’s list of top 200 IMRF beneficiaries, Haida in 40th place and Haine in 50th.
“The IMRF, although touted as the gold standard in government pension funds, is just as efficient at stealing taxpayer wealth to benefit the political elite as any Illinois state pension fund,” said Jim Tobin, TUA president, in a press release.
“The entire list of the top 200 IMRF annual pensions exceeds $116,000 with multi-million dollar lifetime payouts that are largely taxpayer funded. Although the IMRF is adequately funded, that doesn’t make it fair to taxpayers, especially considering that the total unfunded liabilities for Illinois government pensions is far in excess of $111 billion.”
The TUA reported these statistics regarding the IMRF:
• Total number of pension beneficiaries is approximately 119,556
• 478 collect pensions in excess of $100,000
• 5,916 collect pensions in excess of $50,000
• The average 2014 annual pension is $17,268
• The average amount that employees paid into their own pension fund is $19,030, or 4.6 percent of their estimated lifetime pension payout
• The average estimated lifetime payout is $411,998, based on a life expectancy of 85 and an annual 3 percent cost of living adjustment
• The average age at retirement is 62
• The average years of employment are 18
• In fiscal year 2014, taxpayers were forced to pay $923,382,825 into the government pension fund
• In fiscal year 2014, local and county government employees paid $351,089,445 into their own pension fund
• The net return on investment for IMRF in fiscal year 2014 was only 5.8 percent, or $2,001,440,028
• As of the end of fiscal year 2014, IMRF had an 87.3 percent funded ratio with a $4.8 billion unfunded liability
Tobin and other pension reform advocates support changing public pension systems from the current defined-benefit system to 401(k) style retirement savings accounts.
“But this type of positive, sweeping reform cannot occur without first amending the Illinois Constitution by removing the government employee pension protection clause,” Tobin stated. “However, the Illinois General Assembly could immediately require that all new government employees be placed in a 401(k) style defined-contribution plan, which would eliminate additional unfunded government pension liabilities immediately.”
He said that taxpayers are forced to pay $2.63 for every $1 that pensioners pay into their own IMRF fund annually, or 263 percent.
“I can’t think of a single private sector employer who does that,” he stated. “Social Security payments by the employer are an equal match to employee payments.
“Today’s taxpayers should not be required to pay for services rendered years ago, just as bureaucrats and politicians should not be allowed to balance today’s budgets on the backs of tomorrow’s taxpayers. Let’s make necessary reforms that will benefit all of Illinois economically and finally do something that actually is ‘for the children.’”
A pension reform bill passed by the state legislature in 2013 was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court last year when it sided with public unions in ruling that the state was obligated to protect public worker pensions.
And ever since Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected in 2014 on a reform platform, Democrat lawmakers, who control both branches of state government, have resisted his proposals to transform the state’s under-funded pension systems.
Legislation introduced by Republicans this session would give retired government workers a choice in collecting benefits over several years, or cash out immediately but with a smaller lump sum.
Two bills on the subject were discussed during a testimony-only committee hearing last week – House Bill 4427 sponsored by State Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) and House Bill 5625 sponsored by State Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago).
As reported by Illinois News Network last week, under one scenario in Batinick’s plan, it would take the state a $700,000 up-front investment to fund the pension of an employee projected to draw $50,000 annually.
The legislation would offer workers essentially three options: Accept the $50,000 annual pension; take an immediate payout at about 75 percent of $700,000; or take an immediate, partial amount and still get an annual pension payment — although smaller than $50,000, according to the report.
Chairperson of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) said the state should not force workers into reduced, lump sum payouts.
That decision, Nekritz said, “would have to be completely voluntary and only at the whim and desire of the participants,” the Illinois News Network report stated.