By Dennis Constant
Jim Edgar must bear much of the blame for the present mess in Illinois’ floundering government employee pension system, which is literally making pension millionaires of some of its recipients, including former Governor Edgar.
On May 27, 1998, Edgar signed into law Senate Bill 3, sponsored in the State Senate by St. Sen. Larry Bomke (R-50, Springfield) and Rep Raymond Poe (R-99, Springfield) in the State House. This allowed government school teachers and administrators outside of Chicago to retire after 34 years of teaching and receive 75 percent of their final pay. As most public high school teachers in Chicago suburbs retire with salaries over $100,000 gross pay for nine months employment (and administrators receiving 2-4 times this amount), the bill signed into law by Edgar is estimated to cost Illinois taxpayers over $25 billion over the next 47 years.
Former Gov. Jim Edgar (R) is treated almost with reverence by much of the media, perhaps, as columnist Rick Pearson put it, tongue-in-cheek, he is “the last elected Illinois governor not to be convicted of a federal crime.” Edgar is doing very well indeed, pulling down an annual pension of $130,908 from the State Employees Retirement System, funded by Illinois taxpayers – $10,909 a month. In fact, he retired at age 55 in 2001, so he’s pulled down a million dollars in pension payments already.
Also, Edgar feeds off Illinois taxpayers by getting $177,630 a year for being a “Distinguished Fellow” at the University of Illinois. His annual taxpayer-funded income is $308,538 – $25,711 a month. Edgar always knew how to work the system.
Jim Edgar is a career politician, a lifetime bureaucrat who has never had a private sector job. In 1969, as a staff member of Springfield power-broker and Senate Majority Leader Russell Arrington (R), Edgar was intimately involved in creating Illinois’ state income tax. This was the biggest tax hike in Illinois history. As Governor, Edgar raised the state income tax in 1991 and 1993.
No wonder Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Brady, recently passed on a photo opportunity with Edgar.