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Our View: State payouts high because of pensions

Published: Friday, June 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Looking for a six-figure job?

You might want to inquire with the state of Illinois.

According to a GateHouse Media, 8 percent – or 6,215 people – of the nearly 76,000 state employees surveyed earned more than $100,000 in 2012. That’s 1,131 more people who earned $100,000 than in 2011.

And, yes, Illinois’ public-pension crisis is to blame.

Those 6,215 workers cost the state $781 million – 17 percent of a $4.5 billion payroll. We’re talking about judges, doctors, nurses, police officers and others.

Gov. Pat Quinn? He was only the 687th highest-paid state employee in 2012, with a salary of $177,412.

And the analysis didn’t include state university and community college employees. If it did, the number of those making more than $100,000 would have been much higher.

The analysis looked at all compensation, including overtime pay and unused sick and vacation time, routinely cashed in upon retirement. That’s where the pension fiasco factors in.

The State Employees Retirement System last year reported a significant increase in the number of state workers who were retiring. It attributed the spike in uncertainty over the state’s dismal finances and the fear of changes being made to state pension systems.

So, as more state employees retired because of pension uncertainty, more unused vacation and sick time had to be paid out.

These figures drive home the point that Illinois’ fiscal stability starts and ends with pension reform. The pension shortfall influences everything negatively.

Yet, here we are, years beyond needing a solution still bickering over a solution.

The state sinks deeper while state lawmakers sit and do nothing.

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