Pension-themed threat mailed to legislators, union leaders, media

Pension-themed threat mailed to legislators, union leaders, media

Illinois State Police are investigating an anonymous letter sent to numerous state legislators, union leaders and at least one media outlet threatening deadly consequences if state pension benefits aren't scaled back.

The mailing — postmarked in Champaign — was titled "Dead People Can't Collect Fat State Pensions" in bold black letters and was addressed to lawmakers, union leaders, public employees and "bondholders in the United States."

"You know the pension system is unsustainable. So do we Illinois Taxpayers," said the letter, first reported by the Capitol Fax newsletter. "You may think you can extract more money from us. We would advise you to think again."

The letter then cited the possibility of strangulation, arson and "many other effective means."

"If you're smart, you'll want to avoid this outcome. Once it's started, it's not easily stopped," the writer said, warning that teachers aren't exempt.

The author demanded that legislators change the actuarial tables for pensions, remove the pension clause from the state Constitution before enacting a graduated income tax, consolidate townships and other governmental units, and enact "cap$ and clawback$ for outrageou$ pension payout$."

The letter directed union leaders to admit they "lied" to members about pension promises and told public employees to "scale it back" and demand pension plans with "reasonable" benefits. "Stop double-dipping and playing salary games at career's end to max out your take."

It then ominously warned, "If the state soaks the taxpayers again, there will be a surprise ending, a final payment. Repeal or requiem? Last chance or last rights? Choose wisely."

Both Republicans and Democrats received the letter, officials said.

Staff members for state Sen. Scott Bennett and Rep. Carol Ammons said their Champaign offices received copies. State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, wasn't sure if his district office had because his staff was with him in Springfield on Tuesday, but he said state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, received a copy.

"Most of our caucus received them," Bennett said.

Both the Senate and the Secretary of State Police, which has jurisdiction over the Capitol Complex, "take all these threats seriously," Bennett said.

Letters were also sent to the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Public Media in Urbana, officials said.

"It is truly disheartening that someone would send a letter like this. We have full faith in Illinois law enforcement and believe the perpetrator will be found. When that happens, we hope the author gets the help he or she needs," IEA President Kathi Griffin said in an email statement.

Coincidentally, she said, the letters were mailed at the same time the union released its State of Education report, which showed that 75 percent of Illinoisans believe that teachers are entitled to their full pensions.

Teachers don't pay into or get benefits from the Social Security System, so they rely on their state pensions for retirement, IEA officials said.

The system is designed to be funded like Social Security, with half the contributions from employees and half from the state. But the state currently pays a bigger share because it's making up for past years when it underfunded the plan, said IEA spokeswoman Bridget Shanahan.

UI police didn't receive any other reports of UI employees receiving the letter, said spokesman Pat Wade.

Illinois State Police spokesman Lt. Joe Hutchins said police were still evaluating the reports, and "if a crime has been committed, we will be coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to handle this incident."

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