Taxpayers United of America’s Jared Labell was quoted by The Register-Mail on the pension crisis in Illinois
GALESBURG — The privately-funded watchdog group Taxpayers United of America released its findings on problematic pensions in local governments Wednesday.
Director of Operations Jared Labell isolated two retired educators in Knox County with pensions he said are an example of the out-of-control system in Illinois. Labell put the cause of the problem on lawmakers in Springfield and hiring practices of local governments.
“I certainly don’t put the blame on the individuals being hired in these positions. … I think the fault is with the politicians locally, with the politicians statewide and I think the blame needs to be passed on them first and foremost because they are also part of the pension system,” Labell said.
However, in Galesburg and Knox County, local elected officials have little control over pensions, most of which are negotiated at the state level. Galesburg Mayor John Pritchard said the city has very little influence on pension rates.
“We get a bill from IMRF and we pay it,” Pritchard said. “As for the fire and police pensions, the establishment of those are set by state law.”
At the state level, pension reform legislation is currently being reviewed by the Illinois Supreme Court. The legislation would change the cost of living adjustment rate to keep pensions from ballooning over time. Labell said that legislation is a good start but it doesn’t go far enough.
State employee unions have opposed the legislation, saying it takes away money promised to the workers. Labell said the unions should help pay to ease the situation.
“The unions should use those dues forced from members to bail out the pension system rather than use those funds to elect political cronies to keep them in power,” Labell said.
To help combat the pension problem down the road, Labell said new hires should be switched to a 401(k)-style retirement plan and contribute more toward their pensions while they are still employed.