You owe $52K for state employee pensions, and the bill is overdue

Illinois Policy Institute

It should be no surprise that in the land of 6,963 government units, there are 650 public pension systems.

Belleville, for example, participates in the Illinois Municipal Retirement System for many of its employees. But Belleville firefighters get their own pension system. Belleville police get their own, too.

Belleville’s future IMRF retirees are 88.6 percent covered. The police pension has 54 percent of what it needs, and the fire pension has 44.5 percent.

One city, three pension funds. Multiply that across Illinois and you quickly reach 660, each with its own board, investment fees and lawyers.

Someone worked hard to design a system so inherently inefficient and costly, and with such wide ranging standards for what should be in the pot to cover future obligations.

As a whole, the public pensions in Illinois are underfunded by $167 billion. That means they have 29 percent of what they need to meet the promises made to public employees.

It also means a liability of $34,776 for each household in Illinois.

For some more good news, Moody’s Investor Service thinks the state’s projections are too optimistic and the debt is more like $251 billion just for the state’s five pension systems. That is a liability of $52,269 for you and for every other Illinois household.

There is a better way. Ohio has a single public pension system that is 82 percent funded. Utah also has one system and eight other states have only two systems, regardless of whether you are a local, county or state employee.

They don’t see you as a special case just because you are a retired cop rather than a retired dog catcher or retired sewer billing clerk.

Simple. Efficient. Makes too much sense to ever work in Illinois.