A taxpayers' advocate sees a recent decision that increases the minimum number of hours that Madison County employees must work in order to be eligible for pension benefits as a positive move, but one that only "tinkers" with a more profound problem.
Last month board members changed the number of work hours needed from 600 per year to 1,000 per year in order for county workers to stake a claim in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
“The recent change by the Madison County Board is a good move for taxpayers, but raising county employees’ minimum number of work hours to collect IMRF pensions is merely tinkering on the edges of a much broader problem,” Jared Labell of Taxpayers United of America told the Record. “Defined benefit government pensions are unsustainable.”
County employees previously received IMRF pension for working approximately 12 hours a week, but because of this change, the hours have increased to a minimum of 20 hours of work. The change won’t affect current employees, but will apply to new hires.
“Employees currently working 600 hours a year at a minimum won’t be required to work additional hours to remain in IMRF, so the changes only affect new hires and not existing county employees,” Labell said.
Other counties across Illinois are also increasing the amount of hours an employee is required to work before receiving their benefits. But, according to Labell, the pensions promised to government workers are overly lavish and unfair to taxpayers.
“To receive pensions for as little as 12- or 20-hour work weeks is astonishing. If government employees are to receive pensions, taxpayers should expect these individuals to at least work full-time,” Labell said.
“Taxpayers are struggling under numerous tax burdens in this state. Income taxes, local taxes, and rising property taxes are all tied to the broader government pension problem in Illinois. IMRF is funded through local property tax increases and taxpayers should demand more accountability with their hard-earned money.”
The TUA has advocated for at least offering state workers the option of moving into 401(k) plans, which has been met with fierce opposition by state labor groups. .