Reick: Skipping legislative pension a ‘no-brainer’ ethically, economically
Honoring his campaign promise, Steve Reick, recently elected to the District 63 state House seat, officially and openly opted out of the Illinois General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) recently with requisite paperwork, plus a message to the public.
With his decision, Reick voluntarily has chosen not to be eligible for a legislative pension once he retires. Reick’s decision to run was grounded in public pension reform from the start.
Reick explained his decision through his website last week. The Harvard resident made his intentions clear during his election campaign and followed through with correspondence to the Office of the Comptroller.
GARS Manager Jayne Waldeck confirmed receipt of Reick’s paperwork, enclosed with a letter to the Office of the Comptroller dated Nov. 30, instructing the Springfield office not to deduct retirement contributions from Reick’s pay.
Reick said during the campaign that declining a pension would be at the top of his to-do list after defeating Democrat John Bartman.
“With all the … kerfuffle about County Board pensions … I thought this would be a good time to let you know that when I take office in January of 2017, my first order of business will be to decline to take a legislative pension,” Reick said on his website in March.
Following through in a decisive public message last week, Reick suggested that the decision was not difficult for several reasons, first saying that he would not have accepted it out of principle.
“I wouldn’t have taken it … since I don’t think anyone in elective office should be eligible for a pension,” Reick said. “I don’t believe that anyone in elective office, from dog catcher to president of the United States, should be eligible for a public pension.”
Secondly, Reick said that by refusing the arrangement, he would be better able to make legislative decisions without bias.
“I can look at state workers in the eye and tell them that I’m not asking them to make any greater sacrifice than I am,” Reick said, adding that he won’t be in office long enough to benefit from any pension — in a nod to another hot issue in Illinois: term limits.
Additionally, though less significantly, he would have been entering a system under circumstances and rules far less constructive than those applying to his predecessors, lowering the incentive even further.
Facing one of Illinois’ worst-funded systems among its five funded retirement systems (at 16 percent), he said that close to half of the General Assembly already has opted out of GARS — with the eventual repercussions being less and less capital in the system itself over time.
“I’ll take part of whatever I get paid and slap it into an IRA,” Reick said. "At least I’ll know the money will be there.”
Suggesting that GARS is headed toward collapse, Reick said that over three dozen state House and Senate members had refused pensions as early as February 2015, with a dozen newly incoming GOP lawmakers doing so as of Dec. 12 this year.
“The bottom line is that instead of contributing 11½ percent of my legislative salary into a pension plan that’s on the road to insolvency, or 7.65 percent to Social Security (matched with money the state doesn’t have), I can put over a third of my pay into my own account, which I control,” Reick said. “Even though there’s no state matching contribution, that’s a no-brainer.”
Along with his clear stance on public pension reform, Reick is also a strong supporter of Illinois’ manufacturing and transportation sectors. He upheld redistricting, Medicaid, tax reforms and education issues during his campaign, earning endorsements from the Chicago Tribune and Northwest Herald.
Reick earned his bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and both his master's degrees in taxation and his law degree from the University of Georgia. Born and raised in Kankakee, he has operated his own law practice, focusing on tax representation and real estate.
“I know firsthand what it looks like when a pension plan explodes, and it’s not pretty,” Reick said, drawing on his professional experience as an attorney. “Without true pension reform, and a plan to get the underfunding off the budget, Illinois will soon run out of options.”
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