Nearly two dozen retired union officials from Chicago are set to collect tens of millions of dollars from two of the city’s ailing pension funds because of small changes made to the Illinois pension code 20 years ago, according to a Chicago Tribune
The Tribune reported Wednesday 23 former union leaders would draw a collective $56 million over the course of their retirements.
Because the pension draws are based on their union leader salaries at the time of their retirements, the newspaper said their monthly payouts would be about three times “what the typical retired city worker receives.”
The joint newspaper and television investigation did not uncover how the change in the law was made or who made it. But it was apparently carried out in secret, according to the Tribune, with no public debate among state legislators and — more importantly — no cost analysis.
“No one from either the state Legislature or city government will take credit for the law, which passed in 1991, and the process of drafting pension legislation in Springfield is so shrouded in secrecy that there's no way of knowing exactly whom to hold responsible,” the paper said.
The Tribune quoted a statement from Democratic Senate President John Cullerton denying any involvement in the changes, even though he was one of 10 lawmakers on the committee that inserted them into a larger bill.
Cullerton said the law should be corrected to restore the retirement system’s “fiscal and public integrity.”
That won’t be easy, the paper noted, because the state constitution says pension benefits “cannot be diminished once they are earned.”
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