In the midst of Illinois’s worsening pension woes, here’s one egregiously odious example of abuse: a retired union lobbyist spent one day as a substitute teacher, and is now receiving a pension for it (at $31,485 per year) thanks to pals in the state’s General Assembly. The Chicago Tribune outed this arrangement back in 2011, whereupon the state reduced his benefits, but—get this—the man is now suing on the premise that the reduction was unconstitutional under state law, and if he wins, he’ll see his benefits increased. That’s on top of the other state pension he has from a job as a legislative aide.In fact, as a Tribune editorial points out, David Piccioli is quite the “poster boy” for Illinois’s public unions:
[Piccioli is taking] the same position the state’s public employee unions have taken before the Illinois Supreme Court as they try to block a 2013 pension reform law. The constitution says retiree benefits can’t be “diminished or impaired,” the unions argue, so find another solution to your $111 billion unfunded obligation. Looking at you, Illinois taxpayers. […]Piccioli’s lawsuit certainly doesn’t help the unions’ case as they dig in their heels against pension reforms. Illinois doesn’t have enough money to meet its obligations to bona fide retirees. One of every four dollars goes to pensions.Union employees say they’ve made the contributions they agreed on, and they want the benefits they were promised. This isn’t a crisis of their making, they say.Never mind that unions signed off on years of pension holidays in return for the generous benefits the state now can’t afford.
This case is a window into the system of closed governance and public union lobbying. It’s not just Illinois—any system this badly run and this susceptible to insider pressure for special deals is going to be rife with abuses. It is the blue model in a nutshell: public unions spend big to elect politicians, who remain in their pocket and pay them back in kind. Responsibility to the taxpayer? Forget it.