You might find this New York Times article on Oregon’s public pensions interesting:
A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.
Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.
It is $76,111.
That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.
Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. Its economy is growing, but the cost of its state-run pension system is growing faster. More government workers are retiring, including more than 2,000, like Dr. Robertson, who get pensions exceeding $100,000 a year.
The state is not the most profligate pension payer in America, but its spiraling costs are notable in part because Oregon enjoys a reputation for fiscal discipline. Its experience shows how faulty financial decisions by states can eventually swamp local communities.
Oregon’s costs are inflated by the way in which it calculates pension benefits for public employees. Some of the pensions include income that employees earned on the side. Other retirees benefit from long-ago stock market rallies that inflated the current value of their payouts.
I don’t believe any Illinois public employee enjoys that high a pension paid from the state’s purse but there are some that are pretty outrageous. According to the Better Government Association’s Pension Database, the highest-paid state retirees in Illinois are receiving about a half million a year in pension payouts. There’s a clear argument that Illinois should abandon its present defined benefit retirement system in favor of a defined contribution. That would protect both retirees and taxpayers. It would not, however, give politicians the ability to siphon money that should be going to pension funds to other purposes so, of course, it won’t happen.
Illinois has the additional problem that it cannot constitutionally change the pension arrangements of present or past employees—only new ones.