I’m mind-boggled after reading about an Illinois political lobbyist who’s legally receiving tens of thousands of dollars in pension income every year, after only one day’s work.
The Illinois Supreme Court … upheld a controversial state law that allowed a lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, David Piccioli, to become certified as a substitute teacher in December 2006 by working one day at a Springfield elementary school — and to buy pension credit for his 10 previous years working as a lobbyist. That sweet deal qualified him for a pension windfall from a teachers retirement fund that as of late 2018 carried an unfunded liability of more than $75 billion-with-a-B.
. . .
A pension bill signed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2007 allowed Piccioli to retroactively count his years lobbying toward a teacher pension if he taught for one day in the public schools. He bought service credits for his years lobbying and began collecting a pension when he retired from the IFT in 2012.
. . .
Last year the court upheld a dubious loophole that allowed government employees who left those jobs to work for their union in the private sector to still qualify for a public pension — with payouts based on their much higher salaries in their union roles. One example: Former Chicago labor boss Dennis Gannon, who started out working for the city, was able to retire at age 50 with a city pension based on his union salary of at least $240,000.
The Supreme Court upheld that arrangement too. Together the rulings suggest the court will continue to protect pensions of any variety, even those gained through an obscurity or loophole or special deal, as long as the workers got away with it.
There’s more at the link.
Note that the court rulings say nothing about fairness, nothing about whether a pension is justified or not. Courts interpret the law alone – and no matter how unfair or unjust the law may be, if it’s been duly and constitutionally passed, they’re bound to uphold it.
This is the essence of the processes known as regulatory capture and state capture. Special interest groups and/or individuals maneuver and weasel their way into a position where they can write (or at least influence) legislation that advances their interests. Through
bribes payoffs “re-election fund contributions” and the like, politicians are persuaded to pass laws that incorporate those interests – usually at taxpayer expense. Thereafter, whatever those special interests do under those laws is technically “legal”, even though it may have little or no relationship to honesty, fairness and justice. By then, it’s usually too late to stop them, and the courts – sometimes “stacked” with suitably compliant appointees as judges and/or officials – won’t always intervene to correct matters.
Remember, too, that Illinois taxpayers are on the hook for every penny of those pensions. If the pension fund can’t make enough money from its investments to pay what it owes – and, as the report above notes, Illinois’ Teachers Retirement System is already $75 billion in the red – then taxpayers, via the state government, are legally obliged to make up the shortfall. Mr. Piccioli’s retirement is thus assured, even though the rest of us might lose our pensions if our former employers, or the financial institutions operating our IRA’s and/or 401(k)’s, go bankrupt.
If there’s a better example of legalized mismanagement and cronyism than Illinois state pensions overall, I haven’t yet come across it. All I can suggest to Illinois residents is that they get the hell out of the state while they still can, before taxes, institutionalized corruption and political ineptness destroy that state altogether. (To cite just one example, Illinois is ranked worst in a 2019 study of US tax rates by state.) At least, if you live out of state and have no taxable property left there, you can’t be taxed into bankruptcy to pay for debts you never would have incurred voluntarily.