ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The State of Illinois is in a crisis financially causing out-migration. Many people are blaming the state's pension obligation for a portion of it. Taxpayers United of America believes we need to pay attention to who we elect in the upcoming elections in order to have pension reform.
"Most people have no idea that over 19,000 government retirees are receiving pensions over $100,000 a year," said Jim Tobin, the President of Taxpayers United of American. Tobin believes changes need to be made when it comes to the local city, county and school pensions.
“You're going to have to use all the property taxes to pay pensions, then you don't have money to pay police and fire, the services we need now. The pension system has bankrupted the State of Illinois," said Tobin.
Tobin believes the upcoming election will play a big role in pension reform.
"There’s no way to tax ourselves out of this mess. The higher they raise the taxes, the more people leave Illinois. We've lead the country four years in a row in outmigration," said Tobin.
Firefighter groups say their pensions have already been significantly reduced from a reform back in 2011.
"They are going to have to use other retirement vehicles to provide for their financial future and their financial goals, so they won't be able to rely solely on pension, keeping in mind that firefighters do not receive social security," said Lieutenant Alan Granite, the Pension Board President for the Rockford Firefighters’ Pension Fund.
"Those who have been promised a pension, in my opinion, deserve to receive the benefits that they have been promised. With that being said, we absolutely need pension reform in the State of Illinois. If you look at just simply the City of Rockford’s budget, in 2013 we spent just over $9 million as a pension payment. In 2018, just 5 years later, we're now spending over $18 million towards pensions," said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.
“The General Assembly has to implement reforms, allowing cities and counties to declare bankruptcy if they are in fact bankrupt and they are,” said Tobin.
The Rockford Firefighters' Pension Fund holds a public meeting the 3rd Thursday of every month at the Fire Department Headquarters to talk about pensions.