Public Workers Must not Cover for State

The group Illinois is Broke is running commercials on the radio in reference to the public pensions of teachers, state university employees, and state workers. This group is proclaiming that “95 percent of us are paying for the benefits of the other 5 percent!”

 

Well, they are wrong. What has really been happening is that 5 percent of us, public employees, have for at least the last 58 years been paying for the benefits of the other 95 percent of the citizenry.

Consider that since 1953 Illinois has saved approximately $29 billion by not contributing what was required to fully fund its public pensions. That $29 billion was used by the state to pay other expenses to everyone’s benefit.

If the Teachers Retirement System and the other four pension funds had received the required funds from the state of Illinois, then the systems could have invested the funds and grown the assets. As a result of not having the money to invest, the total unfunded liability has grown to be over $85 billion.

For this current fiscal year, $700 million of the state’s payment to TRS represents “normal cost,” the amount determined by the actuaries necessary to fund the pensions of current teachers. The other two-thirds, over $1.4 billion, was required to make up for what Illinois did not put into the fund in the past.

The people of Illinois need to know that teachers and other public employees have earned their pensions and paid their full share to ensure their retirement. Today the pension payment cost, which the state is required to make, is not high because pensions are high, but rather because — throughout the years — the state did not meet its own funding responsibilities. All the pension funds asks is what is owed to them.

 

Bob Lyons

TRS trustee

Hoffman Estates