From a press release:
August 22, 2018, Chicago – In a joint press conference with State Representatives Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Tom Morrison (R-Palatine), a coalition of candidates today pledged to refuse a legislative pension when they are elected.
The pledge was penned by Wirepoints, which according to the press release is an economic, business and policy journal. It takes a conservative approach to economic issues. It has championed more accountability and more transparency in public spending.
In introducing the pledge, Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski stated, “As we analyzed [Illinois’ pension crisis] we realized that the only way you change this is by changing the legislature… As a policy initiative, we wanted to make sure that any new legislators have committed (1) to not taking a pension and (2) to making necessary changes [to the current system]. A big problem with the current system is that our legislators are conflicted when considering real reforms because they are beholden to a pension system that enriches them. It is a system that incentivizes legislators to become career politicians.”
Morrison, the first state legislator to refuse a pension, shared that his reason for opt-ing out was rooted in his experience as a small business owner. “I knew that you didn’t ask the employees to do something you were unwilling to do yourself,” said Morrison. “And that often involved doing very difficult, very dirty jobs… [I realized that] if I was going to be a leader for reform, I had to opt-out. And I had to encourage other elected officials to opt-out, so that we can go before public employees and say, ‘I am not asking you to do anything that I am unwilling to do… I am very, very proud that year-after-year, as new General Assembly members have come in, many of them have opted-out.”
Ammie Kessem, a candidate for State Representative in House District 19 and Chicago police officer, talked about her fellow officers who have seen their retirements jeopardized by politicians. Kessem said, “I truly believe that most first responders take on this lifestyle [to help their fellow man and to make a difference.] Unfortunately, many of these individuals are now facing uncertain financial futures because of promises that were made to them by politicians like [State Representative] Rob Martwick – who is, by the way – taking a General Assembly pension. Career politicians, like Martwick, have failed to live up to their responsibilities… Let me be clear, I am not going to Springfield to take people’s pensions away. I am going to Springfield because we need a change in leadership. I want to help save people’s pensions.”
Marilyn Smolenski, a candidate for State Representative in House District 55, stated, “Words won’t lower our property taxes. Words won’t change our pension system. Words aren’t going to bring principle to our leadership. But actions will. So, today I have also signed a pledge refusing a taxpayer-funded pension.”
Craig Wilcox, a candidate for State Senator in Senate District 32, said it is possible that, depending on the results of the 2018 general election, McHenry County may not have a single state legislator participating in the General Assembly Retirement system. “All those currently serving have not taken a pension. All those expected to win have promised to do the same,” Wilcox said.
Alyssia Benford, Candidate for State Representative in House District 98, summed up the initiative saying, “We have an obligation, as elected officials, to ensure that individuals who have been guaranteed a retirement have those funds. And we also have an obligation to make sure that we change things for the future… When you know better. You do better.”