News Tribune | How much are you paying for someone else's retirement?

Findings from TUA’s pension project on LaSalle County, Illinois, are featured in this story from the News Tribune.

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OTTAWA — About 80 percent of every tax dollar you pay goes directly into funding pension plans and salaries for local teachers, government officials and public sector union employees, said Jim Tobin, founder of Taxpayers United of America.

“When people understand that government bureaucrats are raising property taxes to mostly fund their own pension plans people will make the connection and start demanding reform,” Tobin said.

Tobin and TUA of Illinois executive director Rae Ann McNeilly held a press conference Wednesday in Ottawa to release a list of salaries and pensions paid to local teachers and government employees to illustrate why the state’s pension system will collapse by 2015, according to TUA.

“Real reform starts with this community looking at these lists and asking if this is what we want for La Salle County — a system that allows them to grow their pensions at the expense of the taxpayer,” Tobin said. “These battles must be fought at the local level.”

Tobin calls for the state’s retirement age to be raised to age 67, increase employee pension contributions by 10 percent, increase health care contributions to 50 percent, eliminate all cost of living adjustments (COLAs), and replace the defined benefit system with a defined contribution system for all new hires.

Tobin said voters and rank-and-file union members need to ask union leaders to support pension reform and all taxpayers to become active participants at the local level.

For example, McNeilly said she and Tobin were listening to a rebroadcast of the Peru Mayoral Forum on 1220 AM WLPO while driving into Ottawa.

“You heard all the candidates promising to buy new things for their constituents,” McNeilly said. “Where’s the guy that says, ‘I’m going to give back the money you earned so you can make your own choices?’ That’s the candidate we should be voting for.”

Based on 2010 U.S. Census figures, the average La Salle County resident earns $37,000 annually, which is typically lower than what many people in the public sector earn not including pensions and excellent health benefits, Tobin said.

But the recent increases in sand mine developments in the county could become a major economic boom for the county’s taxpayers so long as government doesn’t siphon money off of industrial development to fund public employee pension and salary increases, Tobin said.

“At 10.8 percent, La Salle County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state,” he said. “Decreased home values, a 67 percent increase in state income tax and a 44 percent increase in Social Security tax have stripped wealth from La Salle County area taxpayers,” he said.

“But the outlook for La Salle County could be positive, if government bureaucrats can keep their greed in check and allow taxpayers to enjoy the growth that can result from a booming mining industry in the area. Rather than look for ways to pillage this growth industry, county officials should be encouraging this growth by limiting regulations and taxation.”

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