Pension spiking illustrates need for more accountability in Springfield, Bailey says
Darren Bailey argues there should be only one set of rules governing how pension benefits for all retiring teachers across the state are administered.
“We can’t afford to continue doing this, no matter who we’re talking about,” Bailey told the SE Illinois News in response to a new Illinois News Network (INN) investigation that found some Illinois public schools have continued granting raises and sick time pay for retiring educators despite a state law that calls for penalties and fines for all violations.
Much of the “pension spiking” took place over a two-year period when the state was forced to operate with no balanced budget in place and many school administrators claimed to be struggling to keep their doors open and their classrooms staffed.
The practice of "pension spiking" is also known to drive up taxpayer-funded pension payments in a state already saddled with the burden of more than $130 billion in unfunded pension liability.
“We need a mentality shift in government,” said Bailey, running as a Republican against Democrat Cynthia Given in the 109th District. “My guess is some of the people responsible for this thought they were using this option as a tool to reward people. The reality is we simply can’t afford the favoritism.”
Since 2005, all the millions paid in penalties have been directly steered to the Teacher’s Retirement System (TRS), the state's largest pension fund, according to INN. In the 13 years since the statute became law, school districts paid more than $50 million in penalties to TRS, including $23.8 million since fiscal 2014.
Stopping short of outlawing pension spiking altogether, the 2005 law stipulates that school districts can continue to dole out the payouts but would be responsible for the cost difference for salary increases of more than 6 percent per year. At one point, raises as high as 20 percent were commonplace.
“I’m striving to bring accountability to Springfield,” Bailey said. “We desperately need more of that and less government and bureaucracy. We have to be willing to call people out and ask the tough questions. People need to have to explain to their communities why they’re doing some of the things we’re seeing.”
The 109th House District includes parts or all of Clay, Edwards, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White counties.