January , 2019

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SPRINGFIELD, IL– The new state superintendent of schools is getting a generous pension benefit at taxpayers’ expense beyond what other regular employees receive, and Illinois state Rep. Jack Franks wants to bring transparency to the issue at a House State Government Administration Committee hearing on Tuesday at the State Capitol.

Under a 2010 state law that passed with strong support from Democrats and Republicans to rein in rising pension costs, state employees hired after December 31, 2010, are under a pension plan more modest than employees hired before that time. But the law didn’t stop the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) from giving new state Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, who took office May 1, an additional yearly stipend, which translates into larger taxpayer-funded contributions toward a taxpayer-funded pension for Smith. The stipend is in addition to Smith’s $225,000 state salary, taxpayers paying the employee and employer portion of his family’s health care and life insurance, 35 vacation days each year plus sick time and a $500 per month auto allowance amongst other perks.

“Democrats and Republicans agreed that the creation of a Tier II pension plan was necessary to help save taxpayer dollars and was an appropriate benefit plan for new employees. That’s why it troubled me when I found out ISBE gave the state superintendent an additional taxpayer-funded benefit to supplement his pension – a benefit no other regular state employee receives,” Franks said. “The taxpayer-funded benefit ignores the cost-saving intentions behind the law the Legislature passed in light of the state’s dire fiscal situation. Taxpayers deserve to know why the stipend was approved and whether the payment can be rescinded.”

The stipend comes as the Rauner administration is pushing further reductions to pension benefits for police officers, firefighters, nurses and other public workers.

“The additional benefit that the state superintendent is receiving sends the wrong message. It sends the message that political insiders will be protected at the expense of others, and it’s definitely an issue that requires a full and public explanation,” Franks said. “Illinois needs to do more to protect taxpayers from unsustainable pension costs, so it’s important for this committee to look into how and why this contract was approved, as it is inconsistent with the spirit of the law and the promises the governor has made. I hope to vet this issue completely, see if there is money that can be recovered for taxpayers, and prevent these kind of contracts from being approved in the future.”

The House State Government Administration Committee will meet Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 118 of the Capitol.

For more information, contact: State Rep. Jack Franks



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