Candidates vying for the 65th District state House seat agree the best way to achieve state pension reform is focusing on the future instead of making dramatic changes affecting retirees and current employees.
Political newcomer Wendy Gruen, a Democrat challenging incumbent 65th District house state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, says she would do away with loopholes that allow double- and triple-dipping into the state pension system.
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A certified financial planner from Des Plaines, Gruen said there has been a long pattern of manipulating the pension system.
"For the future, clearly we can't have the double- and triple-dipping, she said. "Clearly anybody covered under one pension system, leaving that and going into another pension system should be carrying those years of credible service with them so that it becomes one pension.
Mulligan, a Republican serving her ninth term in the General Assembly, said the state cannot and should not stop current or future employees from collecting two pensions.
"I don't think you can outlaw someone from being a triple-dipper, said the veteran legislator from Des Plaines.
"If you've legitimately worked in that system and you've paid your money in, then you have the pension that's there.
"What they forget is that we don't get Social Security, Mulligan added. "When you go in, your Social Security is reduced by what's called a windfall, so that when you retire you get a pension but you're not getting Social Security benefits.
Both candidates agree that the larger problem of mounting unfunded pension obligations is the state taking money from pension funds to plug holes in other parts of the budget.
They also say they would support raising the retirement age for state employees, though Gruen would consider exempting some workers, including firefighters, security personnel and teachers.
Mulligan said she supports limits on how long an employee's salary can be raised on pay hikes in the last two years before retirement, which leads to higher pension payouts.
"It still should be predicated on what you paid in, Mulligan said.
"I think a lot of people think that they are paying our total pension. They don't realize that I'm putting in 11½ percent (of my salary), some people are putting in a little less depending on what system they belong to.
The 65th District includes portions of Maine, Elk Grove, Niles, and Norwood Park townships, and portions of Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Rosemont, Norridge, Harwood Heights, and Chicago.