Pension Reform And Then There’s Illinois

Pension Reform And Then There’s Illinois
ByRay Hanania
Southwest News-Herald Newspaper Friday June 7, 2013
When I think of the state’s pension problems, I think about the credit card problems so many American families have.
You buy something on credit one day and if you don’t pay it off right away, the debt accumulates on top of other debt until you reach your limit.

The only difference with pensions is that the debt has no real limit. We keep over-promising benefits to government employees while the leaders and many elected officials give themselves excessive benefits.

A friend tried to explain the pension problem to me by using the CTA as a good example.

Let’s say you work for the City of Chicago for 10 years. Politics change and you get moved to the CTA. Did you know you can combine the two benefits from the City and the CTA into one pension package? Did you also know that if you are among the top 100 administrators at the CTA, you get an extra benefit? They “gift” to you as much as 5 years pension credit.

So, instead of working 20 years to qualify for a pension, all you have to do at the CTA, if you are one of the big shots there, you only have to work 15 years because you got 5 years credit.

Oh, but that’s not the worst part of this story. Most public workers, the peons, only get about 40 percent of their salaries when they retire. It’s not a salary based on averaging, by the way. The retirement is based on the last salary level you got.

But the bosses get as much as 80 percent of their salaries, and their salaries are often twice as much as the little folks who drive the buses and repair the smog-blowing engines that pollute the air we breathe when we drive down a street.

That means that some of the CTA’s top brass will retire with pensions that pay as much as $150,000 to $200,000 a year, plus health benefits for life.

And, they can go out and get another public job where they can start over and build a second outrageous pension.

Now, are you telling me that the problem is that the state doesn’t have the money to pay the pension debt? Or rather, is it that our pension system is really so screwed up it is manipulated by politics, insiders and people with clout.

The way the pension system should work is simple.

You work 30 years and you get 40 percent of your salary based on an average of what your salary really was during the course of your employment.

You leave the city after 10 years and move someplace else, then start over. Pensions are paid for loyalty, not reward. You want a pension. Work at the same job for 30 years. You deserve it.

But bounce around from one clout-happy job to another in the public service system, and honestly, you don’t deserve anything.

Maybe we should also take the unions out of the equation. If the union wants to pay the pension to their members, let them pay it. Why should taxpayers have to pay for their union benefits?

The pension debt isn’t the problem. The pension system is. And frankly, Gov. Pat Quinn is too bought off by special interests and power to do anything about it.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. You may reach him at and follow him on Twitter at

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Categories: Chicagoland Topics

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1 reply


  1. Byrne, METRA and Governor Quinn « Ray Hanania Columns

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