CHICAGO (CBS) — Several state lawmakers have opted out of their legislative pensions, while the state continues to struggle with a massive pension debt, but a local budget policy group said the lawmakers’ actions are neither effective, nor relevant.
Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, told WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore he’s not sure it will make any difference that at least two dozen lawmakers have decided to forego state pension benefits.
He called the move “purely symbolic and hugely irrelevant.”
“It’s a symbolic effort that doesn’t do anything towards addressing the problem,” he added. “And the problem, quite frankly, has nothing to do with the pension systems themselves, and it has everything to do with a now north of 40- to 50-year period of time during which the state has opted to borrow against what it owed to the pensions to instead use the money to pay for current services.”
Martire insisted attacking the existing pension debt would make a difference, not reducing employee benefits.
“If you look at the $95 billion unfunded liability confronting the five state public employee systems, the General Assembly system isn’t even a rounding error in that,” he said.
He also noted lawmakers are allowed to hold outside jobs, and many do, so they could collect pensions from that employment – blunting the impact of the already symbolic gesture of refusing a state-funded pension.