TRS Pension Payment Rising More Than 14-Percent

Oct 28, 2016

Illinois' already strained bank account will be stretched by another $4.6 billion because of action taken by the state government's largest pension fund.

There were warnings this was coming, but now, the harsh numbers of reality.

Trustees of Illinois public school teachers' retirement system say the state will need to put more money into its fund next year (in Fiscal Year 2018) - 14.5-percent more.

The Teachers Retirement System, or TRS, says even that falls short of what Illinois should contribute were it to follow actuaries' recommended best practices. A news release says using evolving standards, Illinois would actually be paying close to $7 billion.

TRS director Dick Ingram says Illinois is "reaping what it sowed."

For decades, politicians spent money that was supposed to be invested in pensions on other, more temporary needs.

Having to put more into pensions, of course, leaves less money for other needs now.

Ingram calls it a "self-inflicted wound."

The annual contribution is rising so significantly in part because TRS reduced how much it expects to make off its investments.Other pension systems -- like those that cover state government employees and public university professors -- are also lowering their projected rates of return.

Illinois has little room to reduce its pension costs, as the state constitution protects earned retirement benefits, though Gov. Bruce Rauner maintains there are ways to legally do it.

Legislators could take that up after the election. As part of a bipartisan deal on the short-term spending plan that's supposed to cover the state through the calendar year, millions of dollars the Chicago Public Schools district has banked on for its budget is contingent on passage of pension legislation.