State pension crisis the result of 'corruption' and 'crooked' Springfield politics, Caulkins says
State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) did not mince words when discussing the case of an Illinois man who qualified for a Teacher Retirement System (TRS) pension after having worked as a substitute teacher for just one day.
“It has a lot to do with corruption,” the newly elected representative in the 101st District told Chambana Sun. “You have to remember someone designed this and the fact that it’s so crooked speaks to the politics in Springfield. If you know Springfield like I do, you know this wasn’t a slip-up, oversight or coincidence.”
Veteran Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) union lobbyist David Piccioli is eligible to collect on his TRS pension based on the language in a more than two decades old law that qualifies any IFT officer who earns a teaching certificate, works in a classroom and is up to date on all employee-related dues. In a 4-3 ruling, the Illinois State Supreme Court re-established Piccioli’s eligibility, citing the fact that he earned his teaching certificate and paid off the $193,000 owed in past due TRS contributions as overriding factors.
The ruling reaffirmed an earlier state high court decision that stipulated retirement benefits promised to public workers cannot be "diminished or impaired" no matter how far in the red the cash-strapped state might be.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” added Caulkins, who won in the 101st District in November with nearly 70 percent of the vote. “You hear stories about how crazy things are but when you actually see it happening, it’s still unbelievable. No one has stepped up to change this and now it’s part of the pension crisis that’s driving this state over the cliff.”
Piccioli is already collecting two other state pensions totaling nearly $70,000, and his TRS subsidy is pegged at around $36,000 annually.
“If things don’t change, we’ll soon run out of money and the choice will no longer be ours,” Caulkins said. “Instead of putting the brakes on all this, we’re just going downhill while picking up steam.”
The 101st House District includes parts of Champaign, DeWitt, Macon, McLean and Piatt counties.