Union Lobbyists Collecting Illinois Public Pensions Is Illegal Gift

Recent reports reveal that Illinois taxpayers are funding union agents’ pensions.

One loophole allowed a couple of teacher union lobbyists who spent one day each as substitute teachers in Illinois public schools to apply their years of service as union agents for the Illinois Federation of Teachers toward a state pension.

The pair of lobbyists, Steven Preckwinkle and David Piccioli, stand to receive nearly $1 million from the Illinois pension system, one that is heavily underfunded.

The Washington Times unearthed “40 retired union leaders draw $408,136 per month in Illinois teachers’ retirement pension, or $4.9 million per year.”

Unfortunately, many public pension plans have been providing public pension benefits to private citizens who do not perform any, or very little, work as public employees. As I noted in the Providence Journal:

20 states provided public pensions to private-sector individuals who work as lawyers, trade association executives and athletic event sponsors, who supposedly advance some state interest. Worse, most of the private employees receiving this inappropriate public aid are lobbyists who are at odds with taxpayer interests. Many of them use their political influence to advocate for increased state spending and weakening taxpayer protections.

This kind of wasteful spending in Illinois and the many other state governments has plagued public finances throughout history, but at one point citizens became fed up and forced elected officials to pass restrictions on state government expenditures to private interests.

In the early 19th century, Illinois and most other states heavily invested in transportation projects. These investments failed miserably.

For example, in 1837, Illinois approved $10.2 million for internal improvements, including laying down 1,341 of railroad track. Like many instances of government outlays to private interests, the public expenditures produced little to no public value. After the millions had been spent, only 26 miles of track had been constructed.

Elsewhere, in 1841 and 1842, eight states and the territory of Florida defaulted on their sovereign debt, due in part to excessive handouts to railroad tycoons, canal builders, and various other private entities.

As a result of such reckless spending, a “constitutional revolution” occurred where nearly every state (47 total) enacted a constitutional ban on public expenditures in aid of private entities in the early to mid 19th century.

Illinois’ constitution Article VIII, Section 1(a) states, “Public funds, property or credit shall be used only for public purposes.”

Clearly, Illinois giving public pensions to private lobbyists or union leaders for non-public service does not meet the state’s requirement that public funds be used only for public purposes.

Luckily, most state restrictions on public expenditures are still on the books. It is time to put them to use for the protection of the taxpayer.