The Republican state senator in the 28th District says he has no apologies for collecting a pension after 31 years as a police officer while still working as a legislator.
State Sen. John Millner of Carol Stream said he earned the retirement money during his long career as an Elmhurst police officer and chief.
His Democratic challenger, Corrine Pierog of St. Charles, is using what she calls Millner's "double-dipping" as a campaign issue in the Nov. 2 election.
Last year, Millner collected about $103,000 from his law enforcement pension on top of his salary as a legislator. He retired from the police department in January 2003.
"I risked my life many times," Millner said. "I have been shot at, spit at, (been at) fights. I was running into buildings when people were running out of buildings."
Still, Pierog, a St. Charles Unit District 303 school board member, said Millner's two incomes at taxpayers' expense is a concern for several reasons.
"It doesn't seem ethically or fiscally responsible," she said, noting that Millner voted against the state's pension reform bill, which includes a provision that prohibits a legislator from drawing an Illinois pension while in office.
Millner said that vote, in which he was one of six senators to oppose the measure, did not mean he disagreed with the idea of reform. He said the proposal did not go far enough to fix the program's problems. He will not be affected by the reform, which takes effect Jan. 1.
Millner said his motivation to run for public office after his law enforcement career had nothing to do with money.
"I wanted to continue to serve the public," Millner said. "I had a number of job offers worth more money but I chose to stay in to serve the public."
Pierog said if that was truly the case, Millner could have chosen other avenues to do so in order to save Illinois residents money.
"There are other opportunities to be of service," she said. "To have the taxpayers pay you two salaries is not right."
Among other things, the reform raises the retirement age to 67, caps the maximum salary for figuring a pension and limits cost-of-living increases to either 3 percent or half of the rate of inflation.
Millner agrees that something had to be done but said the reform should have started with a commission bringing representatives on all sides together and making sure contributions are brought up-to-date.
"I saw it as a half-step," he said. "The only thing more dangerous than doing nothing about our pension program is doing what was done in Springfield. This was not a serious effort at pension reform."
The 28th District includes all or portions of South Elgin, St. Charles, Schaumburg, Roselle, Carol Stream, Bartlett, Bloomingdale and Wayne.