Tax watchdog: School, municipal pensions 'ridiculous'
Whether it be through inheritance or shrewd financial investments, there are many ways to become a millionaire. Jim Tobin, president of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois believes local residents have the easiest path of all.
"These people are getting millions for sitting on their fat (behinds)," Tobin said Thursday in describing the state's "pension millionaires." Tobin's group is touring the state, releasing the names and pension earnings of recently retired teachers and municipal employees. Tobin believes the cost of funding all the state's pensions is what is really driving Gov. Pat Quinn and state lawmakers to push for an income tax increase.
"We can't just sustain these ridiculous pensions," Tobin said. "And they can't be reformed by an income tax hike. All that will do is let them continue the problem, hire more government employees and add new pensions."
Instead, the state should do just the opposite, Tobin said.
"We need to end pensions for new government hires," he said. "They need to pay into Social Security and get 401(k) plans just like the rest of us have in the private sector."
Eventually, that would bring Illinois' problem of unfunded pensions to an end. In the interim, former employees already receiving pensions should pay at least 10 percent more of the cost and assume at least half the cost of any health care premiums they accumulate, Tobin said.
The only other alternative, he added, is letting the state go bankrupt because the income tax increase will never happen.
"The Republicans of Illinois created the income tax in 1969 and never gained back the popularity and support they had before then," Tobin. "They haven't been in power since. Democrats don't want to make that same mistake."
On the other hand, Democrats don't want to fix the pension system either, Tobin said.
"The unions are very well organized politically, and legislators fear they are going to be tossed out of office if they cut back on the million-dollar pension payouts," Tobin said.
He also doesn't buy into the classic argument that teachers and public employees sacrifice higher salaries in the private sector and serve the public in trade for the retirement benefits. Tobin said the idea of public employees earning less is "horse manure."
"That was proved to be bologna in the 1930s by Milton Friedman, and it's even a bigger lie now," Tobin said. "Even if you just take their pensions, those alone look like outrageous salaries. Teachers are the worst offenders. The average teacher pension is $45,000, and they think that's not a lot of money. These people just don't understand what the real world is like. And when you talk to them about it, they are obnoxious, pompous and condescending."
Tobin and the National Taxpayers United of Illinois are set to release pension names and figures for suburban Cook County within the next few days, he said.
Top 10 Kane County municipal annual pension amounts
1. Larry W. Maholland, former St. Charles city administrator: $118,724
2. Phillip S. Bus, former Kane County development director: $109,986
3. Stephen D. Persinger, former Geneva Park District director: $107,113
4. Jerold T. Deering, former Elgin development director: $104,235
5. James R. Nowicki, former Elgin chief financial officer: $102,568
6. Roger W. Cantlin, former Aurora finance director: $101,414
7. William D. Miller, former Elgin police chief: $93,772
8. Raymond H. Moller, former Elgin economic development director: $93,599
9. Robert Malm, former Elgin assistant city manager: $92,992
10. Robert A. Hupp, former St. Charles community development director: $92,663
Top 5 DuPage County municipal and teacher annual pensions
1. Robert Dunsmuir, former Wheaton Park District director: $140,889
2. Allan L. Poole, former Naperville public utilities director: $140,672
3. Ronald R. Reinecke, former DuPage County Convalescent Center director: $140,121
4. Keith W. Frankland, former Woodridge Park District director: $135,339
5. Raymond W. Morrill, former Wheaton Park District recreation superintendent: $133,593
1. Gary Catalani, former District 200 superintendent: $237,195
2. Mary M. Curley, former District 181 superintendent: $226,645
3. Lawrence M. Baskin, former District 89 superintendent: $211,013
4. Donald E. Weber, former District 203 superintendent: $196,768
5. James W. White, former District 16 superintendent: $192,875
Top 20 Kane County educators' annual pensions
1. Norman R. Wetzel, former District 300 superintendent: $212,651
2. Marvin E. Edwards, former District U-46 superintendent: $205,460
3. Michael Radakovich, former District 131 superintendent: $173,222
4. Edward E. Cave, former District 101 superintendent: $162,915
5. Sherry R. Eagle, former District 129 superintendent: $161,929
6. Joseph Scime, former District 300 superintendent: $157,233
7. John G. Vanko, former District 303 superintendent: $139,625
8. Charles W. Ponquinette, former District 131 superintendent: $138,479
9. Francis J. Kostel, former District 303 superintendent: $135,810
10. Paul M. Patterson, former District U-46 assistant superintendent: $135,131
11. John F. Murphy, former District 304 superintendent: $134,230
12. John J. Struck, former District 131 associate superintendent: $133,487
13. Bradley J. Hawk, former District 301 superintendent: $133,024
14. Robert Hansen, former District 300 associate superintendent: $131,136
15. Robert Gilliam, former District U-46 assistant superintendent: $129,483
16. Richard P. Majka, former District U-46 assistant superintendent: $129,390
17. Joseph C. Yagel, former District 101 associate superintendent: $128,740
18. Gary Jewel, former District 129 superintendent: $127,666
19. Charles H. McCormick, former District 302 superintendent: $126,279
20. Jean A. Bowen, former District U-46 principal: $122,165
SOURCE: Teachers Retirement System, National Taxpayers United of Illinois, IMRF