Reick vows to decline legislative pension if elected
Steven Reick, Republican candidate in Illinois House District 63, promises that if he is elected in November, his first order of business will be to decline to take a legislative pension.
“Holding public office was never meant to be a career but has become so because of the perks and benefits that accompany the job," Reick told the McHenry Times this week. "If we do away with pensions for elected officials, they’ll be less likely to settle in and make it a career.”
Making the decision was easy, Reick said, because if elected he would come in under the Tier II rules, which Illinois created in 2010 as a second, lower level of pension beneficiaries for all state and local pensions, except for some Chicago pensions.
Specifically, employees hired after 2010 became Tier II pension participants with lower benefits that are obviously less favorable to its participants, Reick said.
The old Tier I system, which remains in place for employees who started before 2010, allows elected officials to accrue better benefits, making it more worthwhile for them to remain employees. Meanwhile, both groups generally contribute roughly the same percentage of salary toward their pensions.
Reick said his opponent in November, Democratic incumbent Rep. Jack Franks, is guaranteed a Tier I pension.
“Jack Franks is your typical career state employee, having been a member of the General Assembly for 18 years," Reick said on his website. "As a career state employee, he’s a member of the Illinois General Assembly Retirement System, and thus has accrued benefits that are guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution for the rest of his life, with two-thirds of his annual benefit going to his wife for life upon his death.”
Upon retirement or defeat in this year’s election, Franks stands to be paid a monthly pension equal to 75 percent of his salary after serving nine terms. If Franks wins the 2016 election, the percentage caps at 85 percent after what would be his 10th term. That means Franks would be eligible for a legislative pension of almost $51,000 per year for life, Reick said.
The problem, according to Reick, is that there isn’t enough money in any of the state’s pension plans to pay Franks’ benefits or all of the other benefits.
“Jack Franks has helped to drive Illinois’ public pensions into the ditch, and he’s never been held responsible for it," Reick told the McHenry Times. "Between now and November I intend to hang it around his neck. The very union members whose dues paid for the mail pieces calling me a deadbeat are the ones who will see their pensions vanish because of Jack Franks. He’s the real deadbeat in the 63rd District.”
It’s time to get the state’s pension system in order, Reick said.
“We need to show businesses that we can get our own house in order. It begins by passing a budget," Reick said. "But we can’t continue to have over 20 percent of that budget eaten up by pensions, especially when the overwhelming percentage of that payment is for past underfunding.”
Reick proposes finding a figure that can be agreed upon as the true amount of underfunding, carving it out of the budget process and then treating it like a capital project with its own funding stream.
“People will jump on me and say I’m in favor of a tax increase," Reick said. "That is not at all the case. If companies see that Illinois is serious about getting its own house in order, they’ll be more likely to come here or expand here because we have a great number of natural advantages that other states don’t have that are being overshadowed by the mess in Springfield.”
Broadening the tax base by creating jobs will go a long way toward lessening the state’s fiscal problems, Reick said.
“Albert Einstein once said that we cannot solve our problems by using the same thinking that created those problems in the first place," Reick said. We won’t get anywhere if we continue to rely on the status quo thinking of (House Speaker) Michael Madigan and Jack Franks. We’re too far down the road for that.”