LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Posted September 27, 2023
This letter is in response to Randy Miller’s editorial “Spending Our Way to Oblivion”. I agree that spending is out of control; however, I would like to point out some important facts he omitted.
First, Randy referred to a lack of self-control by government bodies at the state and federal levels. He left out the city, township, and county bodies we as taxpayers should be able to hold accountable to a greater degree. For example, Taylorville doubled water rates over 4 years to build a new water plant, gave the water superintendent a $15,000 salary (a 23% increase) in 2020 and 2021 (which assuredly increased his annual pension), and for some reason allows take-home vehicles for employees who live as little as 2 miles from the water plant. I have seen at least one fire dept. employee using his TFD SUV for personal use.
As for the county, the sheriff is paid $155,000/year despite the fact he receives an ISP pension of $101,724.36/year, $12,000 more than his salary before retiring due to 3% annual increases. He has already collected $1,000,000+ in pension benefits and will receive a county pension when he is no longer sheriff.
As for the state, you refer to the public pension debt ($4.4 billion per the Illinois Policy Institute) due to legislators purposely underfunding pensions. Yet, the Illinois Policy Institute also reports that teachers in 2/3 of the school districts in the state do not contribute the full “employee share” (9.4 % of their salaries) towards their pensions. The taxpayers in those districts are responsible for the difference. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/reports/teachers-pensions-whos-really-paying/
The big issue with pensions is the fact they are defined benefit plans. Whereas the Average Joe sticks his money in a 401K and prays he doesn’t lose his principal, a government worker gets a guaranteed amount no matter what happens in the stock market. State employees who contributed under $400,000 to their pensions are collecting over $5,000,000 in benefits over their lifetime. https://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-pension-bonanza-invest-166k-take-home-5-5m/
If the state were to actually fully fund pensions, could you imagine our taxes? Since fiscal year 2000, there has been almost an 600% increase in pension spending which has been accompanied by a 20% cut in spending on core services like higher education, public safety, public health programs, and what many consider vital services for the poor and vulnerable.
The only true answer to the Illinois pension crisis is passing a constitutional amendment which would allow the state to modify future benefits while protecting benefits that pension recipients have already earned. Keep in mind, I am using the terminology from the Illinois Policy Institute as I do not see how anyone can say they earned a $5,000,000 pension on an investment of $400,000 when one considers even an average annual rate of return of 15%.
Lastly, I acknowledge Covid spending may have gotten out of hand; nevertheless, when you lost loved ones to Covid prior to the availability of a vaccine, it changes one’s mind on the need to spend that money.