Retired Pols Drawing Six-Figure Pensions

CHICAGO (CBS) — They are among the best known Illinois politicians of the last 40 years. Today, they’re all out of office but still collecting big checks from the state.

Former Gov. Jim Thompson has received $1.9 million since retirement and still gets $127,000 a year.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar: $1.1 million to date, and $135,000 a year.

Former state comptroller Roland Burris, who also served as attorney general, has collected $1.6 million in total pension payments and is still paid $129,000 a year.   

Former comptroller and state senator Dawn Clark Netsch: $1.5 million since she left government, and $122,000 annually.

These expensive annual pensions are being paid even as Illinois is broke, according to a Better Government Association report. The state pension system is billions of dollars in debt.

bga logo december2010 copy Retired Pols Drawing Six Figure Pensions

Better Government Association logo. (Credit: BGA)

“It seems ironic that the class of individuals who created the pension crisis in this state — that is, politicians — are still enjoying the generous pensions anyone’s seen,” Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw says.

He says the biggest payouts “far exceed most of those in the private sector.”

But don’t think it’s only the best known retired public officials who are among the best paid.

Do you know Art Berman? The former state senator and education official receives $203,000 each year and has already collected $1.6 million.

Bill Zettler of the Family Taxpayer Foundation studied the pension payouts and turned his findings over to the BGA.

“They only have to work 20 years to get 85 percent of their salary for life. That’s lot of money,” he says.

Politicians typically say they’re doing nothing illegal by drawing the pensions. Shaw agrees, but adds, “It’s certainly not good government.”

CBS 2 contacted several of the retired politicians, and only one agreed to talk on camera — Netsch.

While Netsch believes people who serve the public are entitled to a healthy pension, she made a stunning revelation.

“I gave a little bit back last year to the state because I felt so guilty about it,” said Netsch, who adds she’ll return a portion of it this year, too.

“Hats off to Dawn,” Zettler, who compiled the pension information, said. “Let’s get all 300,000 of them to write a check.”

Other former politicians who are among the top pension-takers in the General Assembly Retirement System include:

–Former state Rep. John Friedland, who has received $1.9 million and is paid $140,000 a year.

 –Former state Reps. Don Moore and John Meyer, who have each collected $1.6 million.

–Jim Holloway, who was an  assistant attorney general, who has received $1.4 million.

–Former state Rep. Jim Keane, who has also collected $1.4 million.

Contributing: CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall


Rank Amount Name Job
1 $1.91 Million Jim Thompson Governor
2 $1.90 Million John Friedland Lawmaker
3 $1.64 Million Don Moore Lawmaker
4 $1.63 Million Roland Burris Attorney General
5 $1.61 Million Art Berman Lawmaker
6 $1.60 Million John Meyer Lawmaker
7 $1.56 Million Dawn C. Netsch Comptroller
8 $1.45 Million James Holloway Legislative Staffer
9 $1.43 Million James Keane Lawmaker
10 $1.32 Million H. Bowman Lawmaker
11 $1.22 Million Alan Dixon Secretary Of State
11 $1.22 Million James Meyer Lawmaker
12 $1.15 Million Bob Kustra Lt. Governor
13 $1.13 Million Jim Edgar Governor
14 $1.10 Million Harry Yourell Lawmaker
15 $1.09 Million Gerry Shea Lawmaker
  • tom sharp

    Thompson should give all his pension money to the Enron and Sun-Times shareholders who he helped de-fraud as a member of their Boards or return to the taxpayers of Illinois. He sure didn’t earn it!


    Yes,just one more reason your fine political hacks and their cronies are bankrupting the State of Ill-Repute! They couldn’t steal enough through kick backs,bribes and other schemes while they were in office. This is just the tip of the iceberg on why the State can’t pay its bills,it’s too busy paying pensions to people that already fleeced the people when they were in office and now do it on an easier and grander scale while retired. I have to really wonder how they sleep at night.Oh,that’s right thieves have no conscience.What politician has the guts to put a stop to this madness,anyone?

  • Joan Mason

    Mr. Shaw-you left out an important aspect. Are they not also receiving full health coverage at no cost?

  • bill

    why not cut their benefits by 30% ?

    • TidesofTruth

      Cut all state pensions 30%

      • loretta

        You are too generous.

    • Roberta Waker

      Can we put a referendum on the 2012 ballot to cut their pensions by 30-45%?? If we can, let’s get going. If THEY won’t do the right thing, the American people need to take control. Any takers with enough knowledge to start the petitions and follow through up to the referendum stage?

  • Toni

    These are the most inconsiderate ….can’t say people….in the world.
    You worked 20 yrs. to get that kind of pension. I worked 20 yrs. for my pension and all except $100 and some dollars go to pay my healthcare premiums!!!!!
    Shame on ALL OF YOU!
    So many AMERICANS hungry, sick with programs being discontinued becuase of money the government SUPPOSEDLY does not have!
    Pleae don’t calll youself an American!

  • C. Duda

    We pay for every expense in our lives and our incomes are reduced by our expenses; health care (which these people get free) transportation expenses to and from our jobs, the list could go on! Now, in a time of crisis in our state, our illustrious representatives are living with more wealth when our incomes are decreasing. We don’t get anything free; many representatives had other sources of income while serving us; the taxes we pay are now increasing yearly!

  • Ned

    Great start ! Next step is to put your microphone in front of the people who set this up. When they walk away offer to pay their favorite charity something if they give an interview.

  • soxfan

    The teachers in Illinois have been vilified for being the cause of Illinois’ economy woes while these politicians are revered. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees in education and working for 35 years teaching special education students, my pension is 75% of my salary and I pay my own health insurance. My pension is less than a third of most of those listed above, a quarter or less than some of them, and is my only source of income. I live in fear daily that my pension will be reduced or taken away, and I will have no income. When I see the self-serving decisions that have been made in our state government that so greatly benefit the politicians, and the tax breaks given to the billion dollar industries, I am appalled by the attacks on the those who serve the children of the state of Illinois with hard work and pride every day.

    • loretta

      Teachers are not vilified and are not alone responsible for causing Illinois’ economy woes. People are just plain sick of it all! Choosing employment in a public school, university or office should have NEVER been made to be any different than holding a job anywhere else. I have chosen to serve the public in a healthcare setting. I pay into my 401k, my employer matches up to 3% of my salary. I am fully vested and grateful for that but I am not guaranteed anything else when my employment ends. What makes you or any public employee special? Get off the backs of the general public and support and manage yourselves and your funds.

    • fedup are not vilified, but you are not a saint either. It’s pure economics. Do the math and you’ll see that you will get more $$$$, than what you contributed, to your pension when you were working. Non-public employees pay 6% (4% this year) into SS and they are not guarantee 75% of their salary! So please stop spewing your 35 years of “working” and numerous degrees. Let me do the math for you, let say you retired at 58 and your pension is based on 75% of a $75000 salary. You will average $56000, not including inflation adjustment, for the rest of your life. If you live until 78, you would of collected $1.12 million dollars in pension! I can guarantee that you did not contribute close to that amount to your pension while you were working. Non-public employees are just sick of paying for “ALL” public pension. I know, teachers, firemen, pokicemen etc…..are all working for the people and the rest of us are just smuck!

      • johnk

        Agree with Fedup. My suggestion is bring the pensions IN LINE with private worker benefits, and in line with the general economic outlook. And give taxpayers a say on pay — and I mean current pay. We don’t live in child’s world where Public employees can say “No fair, you promised me!” We live in an adult world and everyone knows this America we live in is not the wealthy America of yesterday. Everyone needs to downsize and make sacrifices. That means if you have to work until 60 before allowed to retire, teachers should do that. That means if no free health carebut you must pay some of it, so be it. This is the adult world. Most of all it means, the state must stop giving away money it does not have in its coffers!!!!

  • Joan L Mcgrath

    That is disgusting and that is why there is a shortage of cash, start lowering these pensions immediately , we only have to take away the politicians massive pensions , the overpayed companies and we will be well on our way to making a budget come a bit closer to being rectified , untill all the massive tax breaks for wealthy big pensions for a few years so called work for the people , there would be no need for tax hikes and dissolving of good programmes for the people who really work not just the ones that are supposed to being a good job for the people. WHAT A JOKE they are a miserable bunch of free loaders

  • Al T

    Tax all their pensions as ordinary income. If (and this is a wild guess) the average pension is $50,000 times 300,000 pensioners, that’s $15 BILLION per year. Tax that at the new 5% rate with no exemptions and the state would raise $750 million per year in additional revenue. Put that towards paying down debt only, and it would be a good start.

    • Roberta Waker

      Al T, I would LOVE to even have a pension. I worked for the government and when I “retired” my pension was governed by the stock market for 10 years (which was the length of my pension). We all know what happened to the stock market, don’t we? And after 10 years I am SOL. Social Security helps keep me above the poverty level, but your idea to tax that scares the hell out of me. Tax the people making $100,000+ a year, NOT those struggling from month to month. We would be better off coming into this country ILLEGALLY; then we could get free medical, education, housing, food, social services, etc. something WE paid for all our lives and can’t get.

  • No-cfd-fan

    Don’t forget John Brooks, ex-Chicago fire department comissioner that resigned after being charged with sexual harrassment. Even the mayor didn’t back him on that one. He’s now collecting OVER $9000 month in his pension deal with the city of Chicago… check it out at read the minutes, it’s public knowledge. Not one member on the pension board that was present voted “Nay” (against) him to receive his pension… The city that works!!! Who do you think is going to pay the bills on that claim? The chumbolones

  • wayne barbier

    You should add to the report that ,I believe, the pensions they are receiving are not subject to the 5% Illinois income tax which the rest of us are paying to support them. What a rip-off !

  • Don James

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. If you look at all the Illinois pension people you will be really schoked. The Suntime ran a article last summer. I suggest Mr. Williams goes there and check this article out.

  • loretta

    Why does it take so long for people to wake up to this kind of abuse? Public officials and public employees have been taking advantage of the people of their districts and state for years. Our cost of living could be reasonable if we did not have to support all of these people who always approve wage increases and pension increases for themselves, which in the end comes out of our pockets. Why should these people even receive pensions? No one forced these people to take the positions/jobs they held. When the position/job ends they need to do what any of us would do, seek further employment elsewhere, manage their savings and hope they are fully vested in a normal 401k. These people have created their own personal lotteries and have won the jackpots at the expense of you and me.

  • ronnyo

    I keep commenting on all these pages that this is as much a drain on all govt treasuries—a slow trickle that has become a small stream—destrined to become a raging river.

  • LOU

    @ Joan Mason, You mean they also receiving Full Health Coverage Cost at Tax Payers expense ? And yes, that means they are being carried by the middle and lower income citizens !

  • gramkeel

    Where’s my pension? Oh, that’s right, they only took care of themselves. But don’t they work for us?

  • Lou

    Let’s not forget about how they are also taking their Social Security checks to boot !

  • Mary T Smith

    Most of our elected officials are barely, if qualified at all, for the positions they are elected to fill. In the private sector they would most likely not even apply for the job, much less be hired. Since the voters in this country are more interested in how they look than in what they have to offer to perform the job, they just have to win the contest we call an election. Some stay for years without having a clue as to how to solve the real problems of the people. The result is that only those Americans who can afford lobbyists and expensive payoffs are represented in government. Those few who are lucky enough to win the “election lottery” will cost us dearly in proportion to the time spent in office and after until death. Our elected officials appear to have no understanding of what the role of government should be. We have no clue either and allow them to become tiny little tyrants controlling every aspect of our lives with petty laws and excessive fees and taxes, the true cost of their mismanagement. Their perks and pensions…the penance that keeps on giving..

  • white always right

    those are the people who defend the labor union.
    who much they pay for their pension 0$$$$
    CHICAGO (CBS) — They are among the best known Illinois politicians of the last 40 years. Today, they’re all out of office but still collecting big checks from the state.
    Former Gov. Jim Thompson has received $1.9 million since retirement and still gets $127,000 a year.
    Former Gov. Jim Edgar: $1.1 million to date, and $135,000 a year.
    Former state comptroller Roland Burris, who also served as attorney general, has collected $1.6 million in total pension payments and is still paid $129,000 a year.
    Former comptroller and state senator Dawn Clark Netsch: $1.5 million since she left government, and $122,000 annually.

  • Outraged!

    What about Carol Ronen? She worked only six weeks in a job for Rod Blagogevich, and she’s taking home an extra $40,000 a year for six weeks ‘work’. Like Dawn Clark Netsch, she could give that money back, if she had any shame. She’s STILL an elected official. Why doesn’t anyone vote her out?

  • Roberta Waker

    The lesson we need to learn here is DO NOT reelect ANYONE for more than one term, no matter how good they might be because we will pay for their pensions for the rest of their lives. Of course, we CAN change that, but until THEN, no long term politicians. Maybe, if they want to serve longer, THEY will take the initiative to change things.

    • johnk

      The solution is also that votes just need to elect some Republicans. Although I grant you it’s no guarantee that those politicians would adress the pension crisis but we may get further than with these Dems and union schmoozers to break down the crazy pension system.



  • me popo

    You can not change a legal contract for the people receiving pensions already. But you could create an excise tax on their pensions. It would have to be taken out at the time they are issued the check to be able to keep the money in Illinois. It could be similar to the way the Federal Government treats Social Security. The Federal government has concluded that an average worker has only contributed 15% of the pension benefits so they tax up to 85% of what is given. Illinois can figure out the same equation and it might be 90% and in some cases 100% taxable. The tax could be tiered based on how much they receive. If they receive 60,000 to 80,000 they pay 5% tax, 80,000 to 100,000 they pay 10% tax, 100,000 to 200,000 they can pay 20% tax, 200,000 and up they can pay 30% or something like this. Illinois would take it out of their payment before it is issued because some of these recipients have and will move out of the state to retire. Since the money is an excise tax the money could go back into the pension plan to help pay for their fellow public servants. This would include School and Government employees. Any one receiving a pension that originates from taxed dollars either from income tax or property taxes in the state would be subject to this tax. This is a possible solution instead of taxing the people of Illinois.

  • NO, were not going to take it anymore

    There are more lower/middle classs people here in IL , than rich so it is about time we revolt and take back our state. We can not afford to let these rich politicians take over our lives and money

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live