Illinois has crushing government pension debt partly because a steady stream of “sweeteners” has been added over the years to boost benefits for select groups of people, while adding no revenue to pay for them.
But we’re not sure we’ve seen a slicker sweetener than the one reported by Tim Novak in Sunday’s Sun-Times. In that case, two legislators 16 years ago co-sponsored a pension sweetener that ultimately benefitted . . . themselves.
The bill by now-retired state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo and current state Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz let them double dip by getting credits toward Chicago police pensions for every day they served in the Illinois Senate or House — even while they were getting credits toward legislative pensions for those same exact days.
Their bill, which was a simple tweak to an earlier law, technically also will benefit any future Chicago cops who also serve in the Legislature. But so far the benefits have gone into just two pockets: those of Acevedo and Munoz.
Ordinary citizens who don’t get to tweak laws to their benefit can only shake their heads in amazement — as they shake their wallets for money to help Illinois dig out from under its huge mound of unfunded pension obligations. The state’s unfunded pensions are well north of $100 billion, and just on Monday Chicago taxpayers found out they’re about to get hit with yet another property tax increase for police and fire pensions in 2020.
It’s long past time for lawmakers to start focusing on ensuring pensions are properly funded instead of figuring out how to raid them for just a little bit more.
Acevedo and Munoz both worked for the Chicago Police Department, but neither was there for the 10 years needed to qualify for a pension because they took leaves of absence to serve in the Legislature. Neither appears to have particularly distinguished himself while working for the police department. They were investigated by the department’s internal affairs bureau, which recommended firing both of them. Instead, Acevedo got a reprimand and Munoz got a 10-day suspension.
Neither Acevedo nor Munoz pocketed a huge windfall with their pension change. Acevedo gets $4,572 more per year from his police pension, which will be on top of his state pension of more than $64,000 a year once he starts collecting the state pension. Munoz gets an extra $6,802 a year, which also will be on on top of his state pension of more than $64,000 a year.
Those extra dollars come from people who in all likelihood will never see sweeteners like that in their retirement funds.
Sixteen years ago, Acevedo and Munoz were enterprising in taking care of their own futures. Too bad they didn’t put their skills toward figuring out a solution to the pension mess for everyone else.
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