Examiner.com | Book calls Illinois teachers underworked, overpaid
June 15, 2012. Springfield. While many states across the nation are having difficulty paying for government employee pensions, Illinois is widely considered to be in the worst shape in the country. You know it’s bad when authors start writing books about it. And according to the most recent book written on the subject, Illinois’ government employee pension system isn’t just 50th in the nation, it’s a scam.
The book is titled, ‘Ilinois Pension Scam’ by Bill Zettler. The work’s own description begins with an excerpt from Webster’s Dictionary, ‘Scam: a fraudulent or deceptive act.’
The author quotes surveys and other data to support his condemning conclusions. One statistic comes from Pew Research which found that, ‘Illinois ranks dead last with only 51% of its pension obligations funded.’ The book suggests that dilemma isn’t the result of poor financial planning alone, as the state’s public sector unions continue to insist. Along with it, the author suggests that a mutually beneficial alliance has been in control of Illinois’ pension system for nearly a half century. That alliance includes, ‘collusion between public sector unions and the politicians they have funded with member dues.’
According to the data provided, Illinois public sector unions have seen 130 benefit increases since 1970. That amounts to an average of 3 benefit hikes per year for the last 42 years. One specific result of those benefit increases is the number of 6-digit pensions among state retirees. Creating millionaires among simple municipal employees, the state’s pension system currently awards $100,000 annual payments to over 6,700 retirees. According to author Bill Zettler, that number is increasing by a staggering 20 percent per year. In less than 8 years, Illinois taxpayers will be forced to fund more than 25,000 6-digit pensions.
Taxpayer watchdog speaks-out
Showing their outrage over the bloated state employee pension system in Illinois, the taxpayer advocacy group Taxpayers United of America has been speaking out and raising awareness. In the group’s latest release, they quote Zettler’s book ‘Illinois Pension Scam’ to illustrate their argument. ‘How much pension should be paid to part-time employees with partial careers?’ TUA quotes the book.
According to Taxpayer United’s Jim Tobin, the book’s shocking statistics, “raise many questions, especially when comparing salaries and pension benefits of Illinois government employees with workers in the private sector.” By contrast, Tobin quotes Crain’s Chicago Business in confirming that only 3% of private sector workers are covered by a ‘defined-benefit plan’ such as government employee unions are. Just 20 years ago, 28 percent of private sector employees had similar plans.
TUA extracts a number of other statistics from Zettler’s book to illustrate their point. Those details include (from Taxpayers United of America):
- The average retired government-school teacher was a part-time employee with a part-time career.
- Teachers work 170 days or 34 weeks a year or less (182 workdays minus 12 sick days or personal days, per the standard teachers’ contract). Teacher pensions that teachers describe as “modest” are four to seven times larger than Social Security.
- The average pension in the Teachers Retirement System is $46,000. Average age of retirement is 58, and the average years worked is 25.
- For private-sector employees with college degrees, a career typically begins at age 22 and ends at its earliest after 40 years at age 62 or more likely after 44 years at age 66. For government-school teachers on the other hand, less than one percent work 40 years or more before they retire, and the average teacher works only 25 years.
The book’s author Bill Zettler concludes, “Twenty-five years is not a full career nor are 170 days a full-time job.”
Taxpayers United of America isn’t the only group shining a spotlight on Illinois’ pension “scam”. Local taxpayer watchdog group For the Good of Illinois has also been critical of the cushy state government pension plans. In just two instances uncovered by the organization, one retired union teacher is receiving over $100,000 per year while the other is receiving over $100,000 per month. Each worked only one day as a teacher in Illinois to qualify for those multi-million dollar benefit packages.
For additional information, read the April 5 edition of this column, ‘Secret Memo shows No Confidence in Illinois State Pensions’.
According to Jim Tobin and Taxpayers United, one of the reasons they are publicly raising a warning is to offset the self-interested and less than honest media campaign being waged by the state’s teachers unions. Tobin’s statement concludes, ‘The Illinois Education Association (IEA) and other public unions, in their members’ letters to the media, claim that the average pensions of government state employees are “modest” and “reasonable”. TUA concludes that million dollar pensions for part-time work over a part-time career are neither “modest” nor “reasonable”.