Taxpayers United of America’s president, Jim Tobin, was quoted during the latest pension release detailing the pension payouts of public employees in Fulton and McDonough counties by The McDonough County Voice.
MACOMB — With much attention being paid statewide on public employees’ salaries, layoffs and sweeping cuts to higher education and services, at least one group is suggesting another approach: pension reform.
Taxpayers United of America recently put out figures based on state records illustrating the pensions for retirees from Macomb School District, Western Illinois University and the City of Macomb. TUA President Jim Tobin first took on WIU President Emeritus Alvin Goldfarb by stating that Goldfarb “enjoys an annual taxpayer funded pension of $187,541.” Tobin further said, “Over a normal lifetime, he will get about $6 million in pension payments. His personal investment in this rich payout is about 5.3 percent or $321,260.”
The list also highlights Francis A. Kranovich as a Macomb School District retiree as having an annual pension of $149,363 payout and City of Macomb retiree Danny W. Brown as having a $61,969 annual pension. Tobin pointed out Brown’s retirement age of 56 and projected his lifetime payout as being about $2 million.
Lists broken down by county, city and school retirees can be found on the group’s website, TaxpayersUnited.org.
With the state’s budget impasse in full swing, Tobin said pensions are unsustainable.
“Tax dollars continue to be diverted from services required by today’s taxpayers into the pension funds for government employees, whose services were rendered long ago,” Tobin said.
To take things up a notch, Tobin even said the “largesse is stolen from a constituency whose standard of living is far below the ‘civil servants’ they support.” He also referred to the public employee pension system as a “Ponzi-scheme” generated by “Chicago Machine Boss (Mike) Madigan” and his “cronyism with unions.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office also accused public universities around the state of waste and “cronyism” as why higher education institutions such as WIU are facing budget shortfalls.
In response to Tobin’s allegations of budgetary shortfalls being due to high pension pay-outs being “stolen,” Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President John Miller told the Voice that pensions did not create the budget crisis, and cutting such pensions will not solve it.
“It is disingenuous to imply that the total benefit paid comes from taxes,” said Miller, who is also the president of University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100. “The state failed to fund its share of the pensions for decades. To assume that the benefits are the problem is simply incorrect. The pension fund is like any other portfolio. The employee contributes money, and it is invested, allowing the money to grow. The single largest sum of money that pays for these benefits is investment earnings. The problem is the state’s failure for decades to put its share of the amount into the system. State employees do not receive Social Security, nor does the state pay into Social Security like other employers. In essence, the state did not invest its part of their employees’ retirement.”
With regard to many public employees who make modest salaries, Miller said employees — including many teachers — take the jobs for modest pay knowing they will have security at retirement.
“They plan their lives around the standing pension agreements,” Miller said. “They cannot go back in time and invest differently if their pensions are drastically altered.”