Illinois Senate panel votes down pension measure

PoliticsElectionsInterior PolicyPension and WelfareCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemIllinois General Assembly

An Illinois Senate committee on Wednesday rejected a measure that would force local government to pick up the tab when it gives an ex-lawmaker a big paycheck to fatten his pension.

The bill passed the House on a 110-0 vote in March. The legislation sought to require cities, villages or other governments employing a former lawmaker for short periods of time to pay for the additional pension expenses that go with the new job, said House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego, who sponsored the bill in his chamber.

“It says unfortunately part of the General Assembly doesn’t get it, and we need to be going out of our way to put some faith and integrity back in the general assembly and it’s almost a lack of recognition that there’s a problem and abuses are taking place,” Cross said.

Last year, the Tribune and WGN TV disclosed a pension windfall for former Democratic state Rep. Robert Molaro of Chicago. Molaro nearly doubled the $64,000 legislative pension he would’ve gotten without the boost from working one month as a well-paid aide to Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee. Molaro received a $12,000 paycheck for the advising gig and for writing a 19-page white paper on pensions. He was able to annualize the paycheck over 12 months and base his government pension on a $144,000 salary.

Under the legislation, a former lawmaker also could opt out of the higher pension. It would apply to lawmakers who were in the legislature before August 1994 and then took a different government job with a sweeter paycheck. A 1994 law prevents lawmakers hired after that date from boosting their state pensions when they leave the General Assembly for higher-paying government jobs.

Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, voted against sending the bill to the full Senate because he said it’s “people overreacting to, in most cases, very isolated incidents.” Most people leave the legislature because they feel they can serve better in another capacity, not because they’re focused on racking up pension dollars, Trotter said.

“The numbers are so little compared to what really happens,” Trotter said. “A lot of people have transitioned from the legislature and other jobs and now we’re penalizing them because there’s this one example.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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PoliticsElectionsInterior PolicyPension and WelfareCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemIllinois General Assembly
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