Bailey sees pension system ills as driver of state's problems
State Rep.-elect Darren Bailey of Xenia thinks it’s time every lawmaker in Springfield take a stand on what he sees as the driver of so many of the state’s most pressing issues—its pension system.
“The conversation we need to be having is the one everyone seems to be avoiding, and that’s about our unsustainable pension system,” Bailey told the SE Illinois News. “It’s connected to everything from our uncontrollable debt to our high property taxes to our runaway outmigration.”
Illinois Policy Institute reports that after contributing just roughly $160,000 apiece toward their pensions over the lives of their careers, more than 19,000 retirees from the state’s six largest pension systems collected upwards of $100,000 each in benefits during fiscal year 2018, at a total cost to taxpayers of nearly $2.4 billion.
Leading the pack in terms of netting the most lucrative payouts for its members is the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), which paid out six-figure sums to almost 12,000 pensioners.
“It’s a problem so big and in need of a fix that everything has to be on table in terms of coming up with a solution,” said Bailey, a Republican elected in November to the Illinois House of Representatives representing the 109th District. “We need to be asking ourselves questions like, 'Do we start taxing these pensions, or do we start doing so at certain levels?”
With Moody’s Investors Services pegging the state’s unfunded pension liability at $250 billion, or nearly double the amount officially reported by the state, Bailey argues that it’s time accountability take center stage in Springfield.
“If we’re going to get any of this in order, we need accountability first and foremost, and then maybe taxation after that,” he said. “We have to hold people accountable, because another tax hike will only send more people heading for the [state's] border.”
The 109th House District includes Clay, Edwards, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White counties.