Coalition of Conservative Reformers pledge to refuse legislative pension
A coalition of conservative reformers made a pledge to refuse a legislative pension if they get elected to the state legislature.
State Reps. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) discussed the initiative at a recent press conference. The pledge was penned by Wirepoints, an economic, business and policy journal.
Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski, who was also present at the conference, said that after analyzing the pension data he realized the only way to change this issue is by changing the legislature.
“As a policy initiative, we wanted to make sure that any new legislators have committed … to not taking a pension and … to making necessary changes [to the current system],” Dabrowski said. "A big problem with the current system is that our legislators are conflicted when considering real reforms because they are beholden to a pension system that enriches them. It is a system that incentivizes legislators to become career politicians.”
Morrison said the reason he refused the benefit originated from his experience as a small business owner.
"I knew that you didn’t ask the employees to do something you were unwilling to do yourself,” Morrison said. “And that often involved doing very difficult, very dirty jobs … [I realized that] if I was going to be a leader for reform, I had to opt-out. And I had to encourage other elected officials to opt-out so that we can go before public employees and say, ‘I am not asking you to do anything that I am unwilling to do' … I am very, very proud that year after year, as new General Assembly members have come in, many of them have opted-out.”
Chicago police officer Ammie Kessem, who is running for the 19th House District seat, spoke of other police officers who had their retirements "jeopardized by politicians."
“I truly believe that most first responders take on this lifestyle [to help their fellow man and to make a difference],” she said. “Unfortunately, many of these individuals are now facing uncertain financial futures because of promises that were made to them by politicians like (Rep.) Rob Martwick, who is — by the way — taking a general assembly pension.”
She also mentioned that "career politicians, like Martwick, have failed to live up to their responsibilities," and reemphasized that she was going to the legislature "because we need a change in leadership" and also to "help save people’s pensions.”
Marilyn Smolenski, who is running for the 55th House District seat, stated the importance of actions toward reforming the pension system.
“Words won’t lower our property taxes,” she said. “Words won’t change our pension system. Words aren’t going to bring principle to our leadership. But actions will. So, today I have also signed a pledge refusing a taxpayer-funded pension.”
It is possible that McHenry County might not have a single state legislator participating in the Illinois General Assembly retirement system, Craig Wilcox, Republican candidate for the 32nd House District, said.
Alyssia Benford, the Republican candidate for the 98th House District, said lawmakers owed Illinois residents a peace of mind.
"We have an obligation, as elected officials, to ensure that individuals who have been guaranteed a retirement have those funds," she said. "We also have an obligation to make sure that we change things for the future."