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Murphy: ‘Absurd Pension Abuses Must End’

Wed October 12 2011 11:12 pm
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PALATINE, IL – Union leaders are collecting millions of dollars from publicly funded state pensions based on their time working for the union, not the public. Using little-known pension system loopholes, high-ranking union officials, who previously worked for governmental units, have been allowed to collect their public sector pensions based on their final union salary. They have also been given pension credit for the years they worked at the union.

“Abuses like these needlessly fuel public cynicism and undermine the sustainability of pension systems that are already the worst-funded in the nation,” State Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said. “The average public school retiree draws an annual pension of $46,452; however, in one case, a former teacher-turned-union-executive is drawing a pension of $242,000 a year, the equivalent of six retired teachers’ pay.”

Murphy was joined by Adam Andrzejewski, founder of “For The Good of Illinois,” who called on the General Assembly to act quickly on the issue. Andrzejewski noted that $47 million has already been paid out to high-ranking union officials, who are being paid with public pension funds.

“Ex-union bosses are profiting from the dues of their hardworking members and we continue to have a select few fleece the pensioner and employee to the tune of millions every year,” Andrzejewski said. “These abuses have to end immediately.”

While Chicago union pension perks have drawn attention recently, similar abuses have occurred at state systems. The second-highest pension benefit being paid by Teachers Retirement System (TRS), which covers all suburban and downstate public school teachers, tops $242,000 a year and is given to Reginald Weaver, who retired in September 2008 as national president of the National Education Association teachers’ union.

According to TRS, Weaver’s last state salary was from his employment as a public school teacher in Harvey, earning $60,000 during the 1995-96 school year. However, Weaver’s pension benefit is based not just on his public school work but also on his 12 years of work for his union employers, the NEA and the Illinois Education Association, and his final salary at the NEA.

To curb these egregious abuses, Senator Murphy has introduced SB 2499 to repeal the union service credit for any new hires in all 10 public retirement systems, including the five Chicago systems, Teachers Retirement System, State University Retirement System, suburban and downstate police and fire funds, and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. The legislation also ends this practice for current union employees going forward.

“Public pension benefits should only be paid for work in a public position. Both taxpayers and those counting on these pensions deserve nothing less,” Murphy said.

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