Board members out of IMRF

Board members out of IMRF

Board members in Illinois' 102 counties will no longer be eligible for pension benefits.

Political progress, at least Illinois' truncated version of it, comes far too slowly, if at all.

But there was a small sign last week of positive bipartisan movement aimed at serving the public welfare, and it came at the expense of the political class.

Gov. Bruce Rauner last week signed into law a measure that ends the eligibility of county board members to enroll in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

The legislation was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks, who is a candidate for the board chairmanship of McHenry County. He has made the pension eligibility an issue in his run for the board, so much so that members of the McHenry County Board voted to end pension eligibility for its members even before Rauner could sign the bill into law.

"I'm very appreciative of Gov. Rauner for partnering with me to stop this corrupt practice of county board members getting pensions for part-time work," he said.

Existing IMRF members in McHenry County and elsewhere are allowed to continue in the pension program. But they will be required to show that they are working 1,000 hours a year to maintain their eligibility.

Before 2011, state law required government officials and employees to be in the IMRF for eight years before they were vested. That number was increased to 10 years in 2011.

The news has been filled in recent years with reports of the state's financially weakened pension systems, like the Teachers Retirement Fund. But IMRF is not one of them; it's funded by mandatory employer contributions funded by property taxes.

But that doesn't change the fact that people must pay them, and there's no need to make contributions for those who don't need to be there.

County board members are among that group. For starters, it's a rare county board member who puts in 20 hours a week. Second, these elective offices ought to be filled by public-spirited citizens, not individuals looking to hop on the public pension gravy train. The salary paid them ought to be their entire compensation.

While the General Assembly's action is appreciated, it's important that people not be too impressed by House and Senate members' willingness to embrace reform on this issue. After all, they didn't do away with one of their own perks, but the perk belonging to members of a different unit of government.

Still, Illinoisans will take whatever they can get, wherever they can get it.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion