Most of the state's public pension systems are perilously under-funded, and the Illinois Judicial Retirement System (JRS) is no exception.
Taxpayers United of America (TUA) recently analyzed JRS data and found these startling statistics:
- The average amount that judges contributed to their own pension fund is $124,387, or 4.5 percent of estimated lifetime payout.
- The average estimated lifetime payout is $2.8 million. Lifetime estimated pension payout includes 3 percent compounded cost of living adjustment and assumes life expectancy of 85.
- The average years of service is 17.8.
“Our analysis of JRS reveals more of the same taxpayer abuse that we have found across the state’s government pension system," said TUA President Jim Tobin, in a press release that provided JRS pensioner data.
"Not only do these judges benefit from the redistribution of taxpayer wealth, they also rule in their own favor to protect the Illinois pension cabal when practical, necessary reforms are challenged in the courts.”
Retired judges in the state's Fifth Judicial District on average will make at least 20 times - or 2,000 percent - more in lifetime benefits than they paid into their pension fund.
A review of 39 of these judges' benefits shows that the total of their contributions into JRS was $6,920,809 and their estimated lifetime benefit will be $150,543,282. The total paid to date to these judges is $33,096,062.
The current annual amount paid to them is $5,534,401, with an average annual benefit of $141,908.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Philip Rarick of Troy is the top recipient with an annual benefit of $203,859. He served 29.83 years on the bench, having retired from the high court at age 64 in December 2004. He contributed $179,998 into JRS, and his contribution of lifetime benefits is estimated at 4.5 percent.
He was paid $173,261 annually at the time he left office.
Rarick has so far received $1,913,508 in retirement benefits, and at the age of 85 will have received $3,984,528.
Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Gordon Maag receives an annual benefit of $111,084. He served 17.92 years on the bench, and at age 55, was not retained by voters in November 2004. He contributed $232,112 into JRS, and his contribution of lifetime benefits is estimated at 5.9 percent.
He was paid $163,070 annually at the time he left office.
Maag has so far received $947,139 in retirement benefits, and at the age of 85 will have received $3,931,995.
Recently reitred St. Clair County Associate Judge Ellen Dauber began receiving benefits at the beginning of this year. She will receive $154,037 annually. She served 25.42 years on the bench and retired at age 55. She contributed $282,290 into JRS, and her contribution of lifetime benefits is estimated at 3.8 percent.
Her annual salary when she retired was $181,212.
Dauber has so far received $12,836. At the age of 85 she will have received $7,341,213.
Former Madison County Associate Judge Duane Bailey began receiving benefits last July, after his term expired and he was not re-appointed. He receives $73,264 annually. He served 8.33 years on the bench and was 59 years old when he left. Bailey contributed $118,698 into JRS, and his contribution of lifetime benefits is estimated at 4.4 percent.
His rate of pay when he left office was $177,667.
Bailey has so far received $42,737. At the age of 85, he will have received $2,713,879.
In TUA's press release issued Monday, it also found:
· Total number of JRS pension beneficiaries is approximately 1,121.
· 751, or 67 percent, collect pensions in excess of $100,000.
· 1,011, or 90 percent of retired judges, collect pensions in excess of $50,000.
· The average JRS pension is $117,473.
· The average age of retirement is 62.
· In fiscal year 2015, taxpayer contributions to the fund were $134,039,684 or 90 percent of total contributions.
· In fiscal year 2015, judges’ contribution to their own pension fund was $15,431,105.
· The net investment return was only 5.1 percent or $36,009,150.
· As of the end of fiscal year 2015, JRS had a 35.4 percent funded ratio with a $1.5 billion unfunded liability.
Tobin stated that the JRS pension system is "ripe with conflicts of interest and corruption and it is protected at every level of a government that chooses to serve itself rather than the constituents it was intended to protect."
He said the JRS "has been stealing taxpayer wealth since 1941."
Tobin blames Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan,
"The ever powerful boss Madigan has supported and promoted the passage of legislation to make these government pensions so very lucrative,” he said.
“It’s past time for the elite ‘ruling class’ to do what is right for taxpayers and to quit padding their bank accounts with the sweat of the working-class. It’s time for boss Madigan and these judges to make government pension reform a reality."