“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Posted on by Steve Reick | Leave a comment

Why I’m Not Taking a Pension

Last week I told you that I have elected to opt out of the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS), and thus will not be eligible for the legislative pension. There are a number of reasons why, and I’d like to let you know what they are.

  • I don’t believe that anyone in elective office, from dog catcher to President of the United States, should be eligible for a public pension. If we want to get serious about making sure that elective public service doesn’t become a career, we can start by making it less comfortable for politicians to stay in office.
  • As a legislator, I’m going to have to make some tough choices regarding the state’s pension system. By not taking a pension for myself, I’ll be able to make choices that aren’t colored by my own interests. I can look state workers in the eye and tell them that I’m not asking them to make any greater sacrifice than I am.
  • At 16% funding, GARS is the worst-funded of the state’s five retirement systems. The fact that almost half of the General Assembly has opted out means that fewer and fewer members will be contributing to and subsidizing the pensions of those we replace. As of February of 2015, 37 state legislators (29 House, 8 Senate) had opted out of GARS. As I write this, 12 members of the incoming Republican class have already opted out, and I’m confident that more will follow. What this means is that while all of the pension systems are in dire straits, GARS is on the fast-track to insolvency.

There is one other thing I just found out. GARS is the only system among the 5 state public pension systems that allows members to opt-out. (The State University Retirement System (SURS) has a limited op-out provision, allowing them to put their money into a defined contribution style plan.) Those who opt out of GARS must then choose to either participate in Social Security or the state employees’ deferred compensation plan. Under the deferred comp plan, I can, as someone over 55, contribute up to $24,000 per year into the plan. I won’t pay taxes on the money until I take it out.

The bottom line is that instead of contributing 11½% of my legislative salary into a pension plan that’s on the road to insolvency, or 7.65% to Social Security (matched with money the state doesn’t have), I can put over a third of my pay into my own account which I control. Even though there’s no state matching contribution, that’s a no-brainer.

The question I have: if this is such a great deal for the General Assembly, why isn’t it offered to the rest of the state workforce as well? Obviously, if employees were allowed to opt-out, fewer participants would mean lower contributions needed to prop up the system. Therefore, new employees are chained like galley slaves to a sinking ship they can’t escape.

Without true pension reform, and a plan to get the underfunding off the budget, Illinois will soon run out of options.

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Opting Out of the Legislative Pension

Early on in the campaign, I said that, if elected, I would not take a legislative pension.

Pension Election

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Moving From Campaigning to Representing

State SealI’ve waited to discuss the outcome of the election, not because I didn’t feel that I owed you a comment, but to allow it to sink in. The days since November 8 have been a whirlwind, but now the dust has settled.

First and foremost, I want to thank my wife Deb for her support and understanding during all these months of solitary dinners and neglected household chores. Throughout the campaign she was my gracious silence, and my rock.

To those who supported me with their votes, I simply say that I will do my best to justify your confidence. For those who didn’t, I ask that you give me the opportunity to show you that I am representing you as well. To all the citizens of the 63rd District, I want you to know that your interests will always come before mine or those of anyone else.

On election night I received a very gracious phone call from John Bartman congratulating me on my win. He’s to be commended for standing up and taking on the challenge of running for this office, and I wish him nothing but the best.

Much has been said about the amount of money spent on this race, and it’s something that I cannot leave without comment.

This is the first time in my recollection that there has been anything like this in McHenry County. We’ve seen other races where millions have been spent, but we never thought it would happen here. But it did.

At the outset, I insisted that my campaign maintain a positive message, that it focus on the issues that confront us all: property taxes, business-friendly reforms and jobs. For the most part, that became the theme of the campaign and I’m proud of that. Both sides threw some elbows, but I insisted that this race would not become personal, and it didn’t. To his credit, John’s campaign held to the high ground as well. That can’t be said for most of the other races in this State.

The thing that embarrasses me is the sheer volume of mail pieces, radio ads and other media that blanketed the District. I know that name recognition is key to anyone getting elected to public office. But I also know that there’s a point of diminishing returns, and that point was reached weeks ago. The fact that there were millions of dollars available to spend doesn’t mean that they needed to be spent. While I was the beneficiary of many of those dollars, in no way does that make it any less disturbing. On behalf of those who thought that more was better, I apologize.

Finally, to those who’ll say that my election was bought and paid for, let me say this: I’m not so naïve as to not know where the bulk of my funding came from. But while the money might have been theirs, the message was mine. I’m going to Springfield with that message and will work to move the needle toward lower property taxes, less regulation and more opportunity for the people of the 63rd District and for the State of Illinois. My loyalty is to you and to those principles, and no other. McHenry County voters have long insisted upon independence from their representatives; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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If You See Something, Say Something

Hanging ChadWith everything that’s at stake tomorrow, we will have an attorney available at our campaign office all day to field calls from voting locations throughout the 63rd District. If you see anything that looks out of the ordinary, or have any questions about voting procedures, please call (815) 236-9624.

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Last Minute Desperation from the Bartman Campaign

It’s one thing to exaggerate or twist what someone says to make it sound like something else, but when a campaign resorts to bald-faced lies, you know that they know that the end is near.

We’re mere days from the November election (thank God!), and this piece of drivel showed up in the mailbox yesterday:

Retirement Tax

The piece references the candidate questionnaire printed by the Woodstock Independent on March 5, 2014 to prove its point. Trouble is, it’s pretty easy to check those things in this internet age. Here’s that questionnaire:

Wdstk Independent March 5 2014Nowhere does it talk about taxing retirement income. If there’s anything I’ve been consistent on, it’s that I will not, under any circumstances, support the taxation of retirement income. That includes pensions, IRA distributions and social security income. I’ve written about it here and here.

It’s sad that someone who bills himself as being “one of our own” will resort to lying to his own just to get elected. I don’t know what’s worse: people who lie or people who think I’m stupid enough to believe the lie.

Posted in 2016 Election, Income Taxes | Leave a comment