New analysis from the Taxpayers United of America (TUA) shows that more than 16,000 former state government employees each collect annual pensions of at least $100,000, costing taxpayers more than $2 billion this year alone.

Included in the top 1,000 on that list are at least nine local retirees, mostly former judges.

The highest paid local retiree is David Werner, who climbed the ranks at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville from assistant professor in 1969 all the way to chancellor in 1997.

Werner retired at age 62 in 2004, and currently receives $260,338 annually. He contributed $246,018 into the State University Retirement System (SURS). So far, he has received $2,764,243 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $5,748,729 in retirement pay.

A press release from the TUA says that its review of the increasing number of state government retirees and the growth of their pensions "provides a greater understanding of the financial burden facing Illinois taxpayers."

The group attributes the state's budget crisis as mainly due to "the exorbitant costs of the government pension system supported by Democrats and Republicans like Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and former Gov. Jim Edgar."

Not only are more than 16,000 retirees earning at least $100,000 annually, the TUA says that nearly 100,000 state government retirees are collecting annual pensions in excess of $50,000, which it says is an increase of 7,000 additional government retirees since its 2016 analysis.

"Taxpayers work longer and receive far less in retirement than government employees, who often retire in their early 50s with taxpayer-funded pensions worth multiple times the annual maximum Social Security retirement benefit for taxpayers, which is $32,000 if working until 66," the release states.

In addition to SURS, the TUA's report consists of analysis from the Illinois’ General Assembly Retirement System (GARS), Judges’ Retirement System (JRS), Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) retirement systems.

The TUA calls the difference between how much pensioners paid into their own retirement compared to their payouts "shocking."

"For many government retirees, within two years they will collect more money in retirement than they contributed to their own pension," the release states. "These gold-plated government pensions, subsidized by taxpayers, accumulate to multi-million dollar payouts over a natural lifetime."

Other local retirees appearing in the top 1,000 on the TUA's list include former O'Fallon Township High School Superintendent Russell Clover.  

Clover retired at age 62 and currently receives $191,029 annually. He contributed $213,602 into the TRS. So far, he has received $1,589,616 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $4,573,063 in retirement pay.

Former SIUE professor James DeClue also retired at age 62 and receives $183,578 annually. He contributed $270,108 into SURS. So far, he has received $1,696,156 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $4,301,494 in retirement pay.

Former St. Clair County circuit judge Stephen Kernan retired at the age of 55 and receives $182,229 annually. He contributed $190,868 into JRS. So far, he has received $2,114,067 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $5,503,324 in retirement pay.

Former Madison County circuit judge P.J. O'Neill retired at the age of 56 and receives $182,229 annually. He contributed $180,137 into JRS. So far, he has received $2,104,028 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $5,493,285 in retirement pay.

Former St. Clair County circuit judge William Schuwerk retired at the age of 62 and receives $181,508 annually. He contributed $195,125 into JRS. So far, he has received $1,102,191 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $4,760,818 in retirement pay.

Former Madison County circuit judge Dan Stack retired at the age of 60 and receives $181,508 annually. He contributed $274,573 into JRS. So far, he has received $1,039,263 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $5,289,160 in retirement pay.

Former dean of the SIUE School of Engineering Hasan Sevim retired at the age of 65 and receives $180,819 annually. He contributed $293,511 into SURS. So far, he has received $236,145 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $4,777,761 in retirement pay.

Former St. Clair County circuit judge Milton Wharton retired at the age of 66 and receives $174,527 annually. He contributed $236,343 into JRS. So far, he has received $704,452 in retirement pay. If he lives to age 85, he will have received $3,686,470 in retirement pay.

The TUA states in its press release that using the data it collected through Freedom of Informtion Act requests to calculate lifetime payouts underscores the ever-increasing liabilities of defined benefit government pension plans.

"The system is an untenable burden on taxpayers and increasingly consumes billions of tax dollars in the state budget, worsening with every new hire and retiree adding to the cost," it states.

The TUA advocates for amending the state constitution's pension protection clause, arguing that taxpayers are not able to sustain the enormous costs of defined benefit systems.

If not, "taxpayers will otherwise continue to leave Illinois by the thousands for states with booming economies, while the tax burden increases for those remaining in Illinois," the TUA contends.

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Organizations in this Story

Taxpayers United of America
205 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL - 60606

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