A press release from State Rep. Kent Gaffney:
Legislation to end pension abuses sent to Governor
Springfield, IL… In response to numerous WGN and Chicago Tribune probes into fraud and abuse of Illinois’ public pension systems, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday aimed at closing pension loopholes and ending the abuse of the pension systems. State Representative Kent Gaffney (R-Lake Barrington) co-sponsored and voted for the pension reform bill.
The State’s pension loophole stems from a law passed in 1991 that bases the city pensions on the labor leaders’ union salaries as opposed to the lower salaries they had as city employees. A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV investigation unveiled 23 retired union officials from Chicago who will collect about $56 million from two city pension funds.
“There are people out there who abused loopholes in the pension system and those loopholes need to be closed,” Gaffney said. “Fraud and abuse should never be tolerated in any form of government. To take advantage of a pension system that is already teetering on failure is simply inexcusable.”
Another Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found that two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees towards state teacher pensions after subbing for a single day in 2007.
Steven Preckwinkle, the political director of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow IFT lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small pension window opened by state lawmakers just a few months earlier in 2007. Preckwinkle and Piccioli could collect nearly $3 million in pension payouts, based on their union salaries and years of union credit.
“These two IFT officials were lobbyists masquerading as teachers,” Gaffney said. “They gamed the system by taking advantage of a pension loophole allowing them to receive a teacher’s pension after subbing for just one day in the classroom. That’s a slap in the face to hard working teachers across Illinois. I’m glad to join my colleagues in voting to stop these egregious abuses of the State’s pension system.”
The legislation, House Bill 3813, will reform these pension loopholes by:
- Prohibiting union officials from earning a pension based on their union salary, rather than their public salary. For all leaves of absence and service credit earned while employed by a union going forward will be based on the salary the employee had before the leave of absence.
- Ending Union Official Double Dipping
- Reporting fraudulent activity to the State’s Attorney
- Retroactively repealing the IFT lobbyists’ pension “window”
House Bill 3813 passed the House on a Concurrence vote of 108-4-1 and will be sent to the Governor for his signature.