Quad City Online|Taxpayers United founder, in Geneseo, attacks Illinois pensions

Taxpayers United of America’s founder and President, Jim Tobin, was quoted by Quad City Online about his speech in Henry County about the pension funding crisis.

GENESEO — The founder of the 40-year-old non-profit Taxpayers United of America on Tuesday railed against public-employee pensions, terming them an unfair burden for private citizens who earn much less in retirement.
Jim Tobin, in his first Henry County appearance, said, “It’s ridiculous to pay people millions of dollars to do absolutely nothing for decades,” he said.
He said Henry County’s median household income is $52,000 and taxpayers are on the hook for every shortfall in the pension system, while more than 240 public retirees here accrue an estimated seven-figure total in retirement over their lifetime. He questioned how Henry County’s 50,000 residents can pay the public pensions, noting the highest private-industry Social Security annual pay is $30,000.

“We have to work full-time into our 70s so these people can kick back and absolutely do nothing for the money they are receiving,” he said. “If we don’t pay our taxes, a man with a gun will come visit us. It’s basically legal plunder for the benefit of the government class.”
He criticized the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) in particular, singling out two retired Geneseo school administrators. He said former principal Jack Schlindwein has the highest estimated lifetime payment of any public employee in Henry County at over $5.3 million after retiring at 54. He said former superintendent Harold Ford may expect an estimated $4.4 million in lifetime pension. He even noted that the two administrators’ total personal contribution to their pension of $168,380 and $138,000 respectively is likely misleading because often school districts make up the employees’ contribution.
Statewide, Mr. Tobin said 15,661 public retirees receive more than $100,000 a year and 92,386 are taking in more than $50,000 per year.
Mr. Ford said he’d guarantee he is not the highest paid former school official in the Quad-Cities area.
“I do get a very good — a very, very good amount of money for my retirement,” he said. “Even though it’s a wonderful amount, I’m sure I don’t make more than a number of people in the Quad-Cities did.”
The Teachers Retirement System alone pays annual benefits of nearly $6 billion and sought $4 billion for fiscal year 2017 to make up for underfunding. With total assets of $45 billion and actuarial liability of $108 billion, it’s only 42 percent funded, but executive director Richard Ingram told the Senate this spring that investment earnings cover the majority of the costs of benefits.
Mr. Tobin said it’s not true that earnings pay for most public pension benefits.
“That’s a lie. A blatant lie. If that were the case, why do they need $7 billion a year?” he asked. “Their pensions are causing the problems we’re having of people not getting the services, current services. We can’t hire more police because it would incur more liability.”
According to Mr. Tobin, “at least 80 percent” of pension funding comes from taxpayers through income taxes or sales taxes and investment income is down.
“Investments aren’t even earning the 7-1/2 percent they claim they are,” he added.
He is advocating 401K plans in place of defined benefit plans for new hires and allowing taxing districts to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy and reorganization, releasing them from old pension obligations. He recommends citizens demand reforms from local and state legislators.
“Resolving the crisis is possible, but it won’t be an easy road, considering how many current and former government employees are entrenched in the system,” he said.

Madison Record|Report: Union employee funding practice costs taxpayers

Taxpayers United of America’s Executive Director, Jared Labell, was quoted by Madison Record about the cost to taxpayers for union fundings.

CHICAGO – A recent report reveals the legal practice of “official time,” under which government agencies pay staff on a full-time basis to work for a labor union rather than for taxpayers, comes with a hefty price tag.
“Although the record keeping isn’t perfect … the estimates of costs to taxpayers range from roughly $1 billion in the last 20 years at the federal level alone, to numbers approaching $1 billion annually when state and local employees are included in the totals,” Jared Labell, executive director of Chicago-based Taxpayers United of America, told the Record.
Labell said the Civil Service Commission instructed government agencies to authorize the practice of official time beginning in 1976. The practice became law in 1978 under the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA).
He said the fight for transparency is as old as the CSRA itself.
“In recent years, the Bush administration finally required detailed reporting of official time and the activities conducted, but that was just as the administration was preparing to vacate the White House, and the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management ceased to report data,” Labell said.
The Americans for Limited Government Foundation produced a summer 2016 report titled “Full-time Official Time: A Special Report Exposing Taxpayer-Funded Union Employees.” The report said that 490 individuals had been disclosed as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests as working full-time for a union using taxpayer dollars.
Specifically, the foundation reported the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. Department of Transportation is paying 26 full-time official time employees a total of more than $3.6 million, with 24 of those employees earning annual salaries in excess of $100,000.
The foundation reported the U.S. Postal Service disclosed 274 of its employees are on full-time official time status, at a total cost to the agency of $16.5 million; the Department of Agriculture is paying 29 official time employees more than $2.2 million; the Environmental Protection Agency is paying 73 official time employees more than $8 million and the Small Business Administration is paying two official time employees a total of $199,644.
Also, the foundation reported the General Services Administration pays 17 salaried official time employees a total of more than $1.6 million; the Department of Energy pays two official time employees a total of $304,701; the Department of Education pays three official time employees a total of $286,115; the Department of Labor pays 17 official time employees a total of more than $1.6 million and the Department of Commerce pays four official time employees a total of $373,055.
Finally, the foundation reported the Department of Homeland Security pays 39 official time employees more than $2.7 million and the Department of the Interior pays three official time employees $263,873 in total.
The most recent report published by the Office of Personnel Management in 2012 revealed the federal government had spent more than $157 million on salaries of official time employees.
“The figures referenced above are but a small piece of the total cost associated with the practice of federal agencies providing labor unions with free employees,” the foundation said in its report. “This is a large problem.”
Labell said 47 state constitutions currently prohibit using public expenditures to aid private entities and that some lawmakers have proposed legislation that would enact a federal gift clause to prohibit similar issues.
He said the only benefit for agencies that pay employees to perform union work is a political one.
“Taxpayer-funded salaries should not enable government unions to grow their power and influence to further extract tax dollars from the public, yet that’s exactly how the system works,” Labell said.

Madison Record|TUA: Retired state leaders living high off the hog at taxpayers expense

Taxpayers United of America’s Executive Director, Jared Labell, was quoted by Madison Record, IL Senate Republican Press, and Wire Points IL about TUA’s recent release of the 10th Annual Illinois State Pensions Report.

The great promise of financial security in retirement is being threatened amidst an aging population and Congress tapping into and making use of federal Social Security trust funds for other purposes, according to Taxpayers United of America (TUA).



In Illinois, the situation is even more dire because private sector workers and taxpayers must support lavish public sector pension plans, the group says.
A total of 15,661 Illinois state pension plan participants are receiving more than $100,000 a year in retirement payouts, according to TUA’s 10th annual analysis of state public sector pension plans. A total of 92,386 are receiving more than $50,000 a year, analysis shows.
Those figures do not include police and fire department employees, which are funded at the local level.
In a recent press release, the TUA points a finger at former Governor James R. Thompson who raised Illinois personal and corporate income tax rates 20 percent in 1983 and 1989.
The TUA says that as of this year, Thompson is due to receive $147,477 from his state pension plan. A 3 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) added another $4,424 to that as of July 1.
In stark contrast, those on Social Security will receive a COLA of just 0.2 percent for 2017 – an average annual increase of $24 based on a $1,000 per month payment.
That’s nearly 185 times less than what Thompson receives, TUA director of operations Jared Labell told the Record.
He also said that Thompson isn’t the only state official who helped enact tax policies that ultimately created excessively high-value state pension plans from which he or she benefited.
Labell said that in the near future the TUA will be analyzing the benefits received by other state officers who are responsible for the tax policies that support the benefit plans.
In some instances, he said, state pensioners recoup all the money they plowed into state pension plans during their working years in just one year after retirement.
All this is taking place as the state’s five major public sector pension plans sink under the weight of promised payouts they cannot meet, he said.
The threat of bankruptcy looms as ¨all of them continue to rack up unfunded liabilities,¨ Labell said.
Taxpayers United identifies IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) as the ¨gold standard¨ among Illinois public sector pension plans. Yet, IMRF’s self-disclosed funded to unfunded liability ratio stands at 87.3 percent, which ¨still leaves it billions of dollars in the hole – $4.8 billion,¨ Labell pointed out.
Compounding the problem is that that the returns on investment pension plan managers project are typically around double what they actually turn out to be, he continued. Taxpayers are on the hook and wind up making up any shortfalls.
He said that state revenues are being diverted to meet public sector pension plan payouts. That’s threatening municipalities’ ability to provide basic, essential services in some cases – public lighting, law enforcement and education, LaBell said.
Illinois ¨has the worst funded pension plans in the U.S.,” Labell said. “The number thrown around is that they [the state’s largest pension plans] have at least $111 billion of unfunded liabilities.¨
An estimate by Chicago-based Truth in Accounting pegs the figure at close to $200 billion, he added.
What’s been happening amounts to a systematic redistribution of income and wealth in favor of state elected officials and public sector employees at the expense of all those who work in the private sector, he said.
¨State pension and salary increases are far outpacing those in the private sector…What we see is a widening gap in the distribution of income and wealth. Only a fraction of the workforce are receiving increases while the mass of the workforce is paying for their lavish retirements,¨ Labell commented.
What should, and can, be done?
Labell said that a good first step would be to improve public transparency, public pension accounting rules and standards, and how estimates of future returns on investment are derived and calculated.
¨Most of the time ROIs are placed in the 8 or 9 percent range, but in reality they are closer to 3 or 4 percent,¨ he said.
Furthermore, pubic sector pension funds need to adjust to the realities of today’s aging demographics, and they need to catch up with changes private-sector pension funds made decades ago, he said.
That includes shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, such as corporate 401K plans, LaBell continued.
¨We don’t necessarily fault public sector employees for taking jobs that promise lucrative pensions in retirement,” he said.
“We certainly understand, and can appreciate, that point. But there’s no talk of making changes for new hires, or at least offering the option of 401K plans. And that’s potentially disastrous for taxpayers and future retirees, who may not see pension payouts in future years.¨
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