Monday, September 24, 2012

Joe Neal Will Not Seek Legislative Pension

Joe Neal is running to become the next State Senator from the 31st District in Lake County. The 31st District runs across Lake County at its most northern boundary with Wisconsin. A considerable portion of that district is in the 10th Congressional District.

The 31st Senate District was held for nearly 30 years by the late Senator Adeline J. Geo-Karis, a staunch Republican and a dear friend of mine, who also served the Senate in a leadership capacity for most of those years. It was then held for a single term by Senator Michael Bond, a Democrat, who then lost the seat to Senator Suzi Schmidt. Senator Schmidt, who served as Lake County Board Chairman for many years, is not seeking reelection.

Mr. Neal has announced his pledge not to accept any state pension due legislators who are elected to office.  His press release reads as follows:

Joe Neal to forgo Legislative Pension

GURNEE, IL – Joe Neal, Republican candidate for the 31st State Senate District, is pledging not to accept the state pension offered to members of the Illinois General Assembly. Neal’s choice to forgo the lucrative pension is based on the dire need to address the unpaid pension liability that is bankrupting the state.

“Illinois has the worst funded pension system in the nation. Meaningful reforms are absolutely necessary in order to maintain a solvent pension fund and keep the promise made to our state employees. I am serious about pension reforms and believe it would be wrong to accept a pension which would contribute to the problems we need to fix”, Neal said.

The most conservative estimates available show Illinois has $83 billion in unfunded pension debt and many experts place the number much higher.

“I plan to bring to Springfield a pragmatic and collaborative approach to problem solving learned through years in the private sector and service in the military. I am not a politician and this is my first run for the state legislature. My goal is to be an independent voice for pension reform,” Neal said. “Accepting the lucrative pension deal for legislators is not only wrong, but also adds to the cynicism and mistrust of elected officials.”

Neal challenged his opponent to forgo the legislative public pension benefits as well.

“My opponent could receive a generous pension benefit by cashing in on her membership in the state’s local government pension fund and combining it with a legislative pension. That action would be “double dipping”, and this would allow her to boost her benefits significantly. I would urge her to turn down the legislative pension benefits she may qualify for,” Neal said. “Those of us who choose to run for public office should do so because it is an honor and a privilege to serve. We shouldn’t be looking to retire and live off the taxpayers.”

“I fully recognize that we are in this pension mess in large part because Illinois failed to live up to its obligation to make timely payments into the state’s pension funds. Self-serving politicians used money intended for pension payments to expand government programs and services. This was wrong and Illinois must commit in the strictest sense to making its full pension payment,” Neal added.

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