Thanks to a little-known pension perk, some former Illinois lawmakers are earning more in retirement than they did while in office.
WGN Investigates identified more than 40 politicians that are benefitting from the bump. The group includes former House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The perk, passed back in 1989, allows he and others to bank 3 percent pension payment increases for every year they spent in office, after 20 years or age 55.
Madigan retired this year amid an ongoing federal probe into allegations of statehouse bribery.
His starting pension is $85,000. But next year, when the bump kicks in, his benefit will increase 75 percent to $148,000, records show. His last year in office he was paid $97,000.
In all, Illinois’ five statewide pension plans have unfunded liabilities of more than $140 billion. That ranks among the worst in the nation.
Compared to that massive debt load, the politicians’ perk amounts to a drop in the bucket.
But we found one former lawmaker who was so against the idea, he tried to return the money to the state.
“It shouldn’t be there,” says former state Rep. Don Moffitt, a Republican from Galesburg. “This is public service.”
The perk has since been ended. But politicians elected before 2003 are still cashing in.
“They’re going to earn more in pensions than they did working,” says Sheila Weinberg, CEO of Truth in Accounting, a Chicago-based government financial watchdog.
And it’s up to taxpayers to foot the bill.
“I do not, unfortunately, even though I live in Illinois, have hope for Illinois,” Weinberg says.