Related Story: PENSION: (Illinois) When it came to pensions, state officials looked out for No. 1
Story at Chicago Tribune
Only Netsch has given money back to the state pension system
By Ray Long and Jason Grotto
Chicago Tribune reporters
May 25, 2012
Former Sen. Art Berman will draw a state legislative pension of $209,520 this year, highest among his peers and more than three times what he made as a lawmaker.
Former state Rep. Judy Erwin will collect $167,523, a pension spiked by a high-paying state job in which she admitted to mixing politics with the public's business.
Former Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch will receive $129,780, the result of decades of service in the Legislature and statewide office.
The three Chicago Democrats are among the highest earners in the state's generous legislative plan, but only Netsch has sought to give back to the state's legislative pension system at a time of financial crisis.
In an extraordinary move, Netsch wrote a $10,000 check to the pension system nearly two years ago and plans to do so again soon.
"I just thought it was fair," said Netsch, 85.
The Chicago lawmakers are among a string of familiar political names with lucrative pensions. Among the others: Republican Govs. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar; and Senate Presidents James "Pate" Philip, a Wood Dale Republican, and Emil Jones Jr., a Chicago Democrat.
Berman's pension was spiked largely by the $140,500 he got paid as a legislative policy adviser with the Chicago Board of Education once he left Springfield in 2000. He had spent 31 years at the Capitol focused on schools.
But he said his pension is not too big, arguing it is a "reward for public service." Berman, 77, said chief executive officers who make far more in pensions don't have to win elections. "I campaigned 365 days a year," Berman said. "CEOs aren't put to that test."
Erwin spent only 10 years in the House, leaving in 2003. But she bumped up her pension with time as a legislative staffer and her $191,000 salary as the appointed head of the Board of Higher Education, where she served five years.
While at the board, she was fined $4,000 in an ethics probe that found she'd used email, phones and staff for political activities.
Erwin, 62, voted for the 1994 ethics law that stopped lawmakers from spiking pensions with fatter public salaries outside elected state posts. But it only applied to newcomers.
"The old pension laws did permit that, and I fell under the old scheme because I was elected in 1992," she said.
About two dozen veteran lawmakers still are eligible for the spike.
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