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‘Sucking the system dry’

Top Kane pensions

Teacher Retirement System: Norman Wetzel, School District 300. Annual pension — $212,651.16; monthly — $17,720.93.

Community College: Michael Shirley, Elgin Community College (former president). Annual pension — $158,687; monthly — $13,224.

Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund: Larry Maholland, city of St. Charles (former city administrator). Annual pension — $118,724; monthly: $9,864.

State employee: Tapas Gupta, State University System. Annual pension: $206,495. Monthly: $17,208.

SOURCE: Pension researcher Bill Zettler, National Taxpayers United of Illinois

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



ST. CHARLES — The head of a state taxpayers group Wednesday called government employee pensions in Illinois “looney” and cited the example of a former local school superintendent who retired on more than $200,000 a year.

Jim Tobin, president of National Taxpayers United of Illinois, held a news conference at the St. Charles Public Library to discuss what he called a threat to every Illinois taxpayer.

Stopping an increase in the state income tax and new sales taxes is the current goal of Tobin’s group.

“Gov. Patrick Quinn has proposed a 33 percent increase in the state personal income tax, but an even worse state income tax increase is alive and well, and could be passed in this lame-duck session of the General Assembly,” Tobin said.

But combatting the proposed state income tax increase was not the only focus of Wednesday’s news conference.

Tobin also released names of retired Kane County government employees who are receiving what he called “lavish, gold-plated pensions.”

“These government employee pensions are bankrupting the state pension funds,” he said. “That’s the real reason Quinn wants to raise the state personal income tax up to 67 percent. He wants to pump taxpayer dollars into the state’s floundering pension programs.”

Tobin said the largest annual pensions are those of retired public school employees. He listed some names that pension researcher Bill Zettler reported on as the top pension recipients.

“Kane County’s retired public school teachers in the Teachers Retirement System are really raking it in,” he said. “The largest annual TRS pension goes to” former School District 300 Superintendent “Norman Wetzel, whose annual pension is $212,651 — $17,721 a month.”

Going broke

Tobin called that revelation “looney tunes,” noting that the median household income in the state is only is $44,100 and the median housing value is $160,400. Tobin said that while most Kane County residents work without big pensions or no pensions at all, many retired government employees are on their way to becoming “pension millionaires.”

Tobin said these huge pensions for retired government employees are taking up a large chunk of state funding and prompting calls for tax increases by politicians such as Quinn.

“These government employees are sucking the system dry,” he said. “But there is no need to raise the state income tax or cut government services. Three crucial reforms can save the system and spare Illinois taxpayers. New government hires should be required to fund their own retirements with 401(k) plans. Ending pensions for new government hires will eventually eliminate unfunded government pensions.”

And, Tobin said, if government employees in the state were required to contribute an additional 5 percent toward their pension, taxpayers here would save more than $75 billion over the next 35 years. He said those savings would go up to $150 billion if the requirement was 10 percent. And if public employees were required to pay half of their health care premiums, it could save Illinois taxpayers around $230 billion, he said their estimates indicate.

Tobin said it’s not true when some say the state of Illinois can’t go broke, and said he hopes taxpayers demand reform for the pension program.

“The state can go broke,” he said. “And these huge pensions are not helping.”

Top Kane pensions

Teacher Retirement System: Norman Wetzel, School District 300. Annual pension — $212,651.16; monthly — $17,720.93.

Community College: Michael Shirley, Elgin Community College (former president). Annual pension — $158,687; monthly — $13,224.

Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund: Larry Maholland, city of St. Charles (former city administrator). Annual pension — $118,724; monthly: $9,864.

State employee: Tapas Gupta, State University System. Annual pension: $206,495. Monthly: $17,208.

SOURCE: Pension researcher Bill Zettler, National Taxpayers United of Illinois.



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