The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on an interesting pension case recently that I believe is worth profiling. I think that this particular case of pension favoritism is important for the citizens of Illinois to understand because it really shows the deep problems within our statewide pension system. Remember the case of the alderman who received a fireman’s pension despite not ending his career as a fireman? The case I examine is quite similar.
In another example of a decision that affects one person, a union lobbyist is set to receive a teacher’s pension despite having only taught in a public school as a substitute teacher for one day. Yes, you read that right. How is this possible you may ask? Well, as we should learn by now, in Illinois, anything is possible.
In 2007, it was possible for an officer of the Illinois Federation of Teachers to achieve the teacher’s pension benefits if they fulfilled a few requirements. These requirements were obtaining a teacher’s certificate, teaching in a public school setting, and paying required employee contributions (with interest as necessary).
This law was reversed in 2012, but since this individual fulfilled the (not so hard) requirement before the reversal, the court ruled in his favor by granting him the pension benefit that he “qualified” for.
Numerous questions arise after these types of decisions are made, when will the exceptions stop, how can citizens trust lawmakers and the integrity of these systems, and when will the pension system finally be under control? With decisions like this continuing to be made, it is hard to be optimistic. In addition to the pensions that the individual receives from being a member of the Illinois House staff and the lobbying group, he is set to receive tens of thousands more for his short teaching stint. His one-day teaching stint.
These types of rulings, that while seemingly fulfilling the “Pensions Protection Clause” of the Illinois Constitution, are furthering the financial demise of this state and adding to the feeling of malaise among Illinoisans. With pensions continually handed out left and right despite the increasingly crushing weight of them — estimated at $134 billion in unfunded liabilities — is there any reasonable way to get out of our current fiscal situation? Probably not, at least for the short-term.
We can continue to look to the task forces that Governor Pritzker appointed for some insight into the options for overall pension relief and responsibility. But Illinois has a long history of appointing task force after task force that actually accomplishes nothing. If anything, another task force is but a mere placeholder to satiate the masses while its government continues to over-spend, over promise, and under deliver. We need more than illusions of policy changes but rather reformative change. Because our lawmakers need to actually fix our current situation via a long-term plan… because we are done with the empty promises.