Taxpayers United of America speaks out against pension system

Exploring government pensions after new list of high payments to Rockford residents.
Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 6:21 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Taxpayers United of America releases a list of Rockford’s top government pensions, pushing for accountability and reform for Forest City residents.

"Instead of government spending and reforming the pensions, he wants to raise the income tax on the middle class big time, which would wind up in destroying what's left of the middle class in the state of Illinois," said Jim Tobin, President, Taxpayers United of America.

With close to 150,000 pensioners receiving more than a million dollars in taxpayer-funded payments, Taxpayers United of America President Jim Tobin says legislation designed to repair the retirement system is misguided.

"Illinois is bankrupt and Pritzker's income tax increase amendment won't solve that problem. What they need to do is address the spending. Cut the spending and limit the spending. That's what needs to happen," said Tobin.

Rather than direct anger toward state employees who only receive benefits through the current system, NIU professor Kurt Thurmaier says accountability starts with those who yield the most power.

"Somewhere, some way, somebody has to pay something to make that happen. So, when people want to take out their wrath on these exceptions, these people that game the system, they should be pointing their finger at the elected officials who made that happen, or who allowed that to happen," said Thurmaier.

Data from the 2020 Illinois pension reports highlights close to 120,000 government pensioners collect more than $50,000 a year in taxpayer-funded payments, with 149,000 retirees receiving annual payments of more than $1 million. Tobin says the current structure is flawed and needs an overhaul.

"It doesn't take a genius to understand why Illinois' government pensions are insolvent. Rather than put an income theft amendment on the November 3rd ballot, Pritzker should have pushed for a pension reform amendment because these outrageous pensions are protected by the state constitution," said Tobin.

"There are multiple pension plans and some of them are in much better shape than others, depending on what the benefits are and how responsibly the governments have made their contributions to the pension plans."

"We continue with a bankrupt state and bankrupt local governments that are cutting back on services to pay pensions. And in order to pay the pensions, they're raising our property taxes and the state income tax. That has to stop," said Tobin.

Thurmaier says finding the right way to repair the government-funded system is a difficult balance, but says understanding the failures of leaders in the past can empower change for the future.

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