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

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