By: Matthew Besler

How can politicians in Springfield be taken seriously about reforming pensions when most of them are taking a pension and receiving other benefits from the state?

This is what Tom Morrison asked himself in 2010 when he first ran for state representative. How could he go door to door telling constituents that Illinois is in need of serious reform and then go to Springfield and reap the benefits from a system he spoke so strongly against?

Legislators are part-time politicians paid nearly $68,000/year. One of the highest paid general assemblies in the nation. On top of that, they receive one of the most generous pensions in the nation, and health care insurance for life.

Illinois has dug itself into a financial hole and it only continues to get deeper because of the ineffective leadership from both parties for decades. Fortunately, there’s a group of reform-minded soon to be freshman legislators that are taking Rep. Morrison’s lead and are sticking to their campaign promises to transform state government and are refusing their pensions.

Their leadership on this issue demonstrates they recognize being a state legislator is a part-time service and that the Legislator itself has failed and is incapable of funding their own pension system. GARS (General Assembly Retirement System) is embarrassingly funded at only 15%.

Every day Illinoisans’ hard working tax dollars are going to bail out politicians who have put Illinois into this financial disaster in the first place.

Earlier this year, Darren Bailey joined for a press conference and pledged not to take a pension. Bailey (R-District 109) says he’s one of the many Illinois families that has had to live through the consequences created by an ineffective state government.

In a recent interview, Bailey said he and his wife currently pay close to $30,000 in health insurance and admitted the thought of accepting the benefits was very tempting. When faced with the chance to get free health insurance for life, he remembered why he is there, to represent the hard-working families who face the same health care costs he does and sent him to Springfield to change it.

Bailey and other new legislators like, Blaine Wilhour, Chris Miller, Dan Ugaste, Dan Caulkins, and others, know the generous benefits self-serving politicians have granted themselves in this state are a disgrace and had the political courage to reject the current system in place, against their own self interests, in order to effectively represent their constituents.

Currently, nearly 30% of members of the General Assembly have refused their pensions, from fiscal conservatives like the reps listed above to more progressive members like Sen. Andy Manar. Their refusal demonstrates that they are serious about reforming our state and it must start with eliminating pensions for part-time politicians. It also demonstrates that the pressure you put on politicians works.

The current pension system in place breeds career politicians beholden to a fixed system that enriches them but continues to squeeze taxpayers. Real pension reform is needed to bring relief to families across the state that have been nickel and dimed by the political ruling class at no benefit to the average taxpayer.

Change begins from the top down and if our current political leaders want to gain more standing with Illinois residents and even public sector unions, then they must not waste anymore time and eliminate their pensions.

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