Mussman, Lawson outline pension-reform priorities

Updated 10/3/2012 7:20 PM
  • John Lawson and Michelle Mussman

    John Lawson and Michelle Mussman

Democratic state Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg and crosstown Republican challenger John Lawson agree that public pension reform is one of the most important tasks before the state legislature.

But just as current members of the House and Senate have disagreed over a solution, Mussman and Lawson bring different approaches and priorities to the issue.

Lawson, currently earning pensions as both a Roselle police officer and Schaumburg Township assessor, said he has a deep insight into the issue and knows what stakeholders would give up to keep the system sustainable.

He's endorsed a plan presented by the Better Government Association and laid out a five-point proposal on his own website. He believes current workers are willing to contribute more as long as the state does its part to ensure that the crisis never arises again and the system is never jeopardized.

Lawson added that he considers those already retired to be exempt from any changes to the pensions they agreed to while they were working.

Mussman said she's trying to approach the issue as open-mindedly as possible, so as not to blind herself to a sustainable solution. As such, she believes it's too early to promise current retirees they won't face changes that would make their pension system sustainable.

But she does say the solution should not come on the backs of taxpayers who didn't cause the problem. Fear of the financial instability being caused by the pension funding gap is one of the top concerns she hears from constituents, she said.

"They're concerned their taxes will skyrocket out of control," Mussman said.

She added that the differences between herself and Lawson show why current legislators haven't been able to easily agree on a solution.

"Everyone is representing a slightly different community with slightly different priorities," she said.

Lawson says he would work to eliminate the practice of "double dipping" -- collecting a pension from one public sector job while earning a salary from another -- by banning public employees from taking a pension and salary from one agency while doing essentially the same job.

If elected, Lawson said he will retire from his police job and stop that pension at 27 years. He has also vowed to refuse a legislative pension and to withdraw from his township pension. He would also call for an end to pensions for all new legislators.

Mussman believes there is too much pressure and too many immediate consequences to defer a solution much longer.

While putting sustainable pension reform in place is a priority, Mussman said reforms to workers' compensation laws and what she considers today's "broken" property-tax system should also be addressed.

The 56th District includes Schaumburg and parts of Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows, Hanover Park and Roselle.

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