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State Rep. David McSweeney pushes bill to end lawmaker pensions

State Rep. David McSweeney has launched another attempt to pass a law that would eliminate the option to join the state pension system for new legislators in Springfield.

House Bill 293 aims to prevent newly appointed or elected lawmakers from participating in the General Assembly Retirement System beginning at the start of the next General Assembly in 2020.

McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, voluntarily opted out of the state pension system when he became a lawmaker. He contends that legislators receive “excessive benefits” compared with other public servants.

He pointed to former state Rep. Dan Burke – the brother of federally indicted Chicago Alderman Edward Burke. Dan Burke, who spent 25 years as a city employee and lost re-election to the General Assembly in 2018, now is collecting two taxpayer-funded pensions that could pay him about $160,000 this year, McSweeney said.

“It sends the wrong message to taxpayers to force them to fund legislative pensions when the state can’t pay its own bills,” McSweeney said in a statement.

Tapped into the state’s pension system, lawmakers are able to take advantage of a formula that allows them to receive up to 85 percent of their salary immediately after the last day of service. Teachers in Illinois can receive 75 percent.

McSweeney said he would like to strip current lawmakers of their pension benefits, but such a move would spark a constitutional challenge in the courts.

Similar challenges have happened on the county level.

In 2017, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks pushed a resolution that would remove Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund eligibility for offices of the County Board chairman, state’s attorney, county clerk, circuit clerk, treasurer, auditor, recorder, coroner and sheriff.

The resolution led former IMRF Executive Director Louis Kosiba to pay a visit to the McHenry County Board chambers, where he told the public and officials that stripping elected officials of their pension benefits would be illegal and require action by legislators in Springfield.

To McSweeney, passing his General Assembly pension bill is part of a long game to cut all pension benefits.

“I’m going to try again,” McSweeney said.

He has proposed similar legislation multiple times with no success.

HB 293 has been introduced and awaits assignment to a House committee.

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