House Bill 5432. Where do I start? Sponsored by Representative Robert Martwick, this bill has wrestled its way through the Illinois government until officially being signed into law on November 28, 2018. After initially making its way successfully through the House and Senate, it was vetoed by the governor on August 17, 2018. Only to be overridden by a supermajority vote by the House and Senate. This bill is yet another piece of the puzzle that further exasperates Illinois’ evergrowing pension catastrophe. Here is a breakdown of what House Bill 5432 means and who it benefits and on the adverse, who it doesn’t.
HB 5432 provides a pension boost (yes – I said boost) to city council members, serving 5 or more years, who previously worked within the Chicago fire department regardless of how long or at what period. This boost allows the city council member to select the more lucrative and overall better fireman’s pension in lieu of the city council pension.
This bill changes the definition of “active fireman” as outlined in the Chicago Fireman Act of the Illinois Pension Code. “Active fireman” will now include anyone who has served as a fireman and currently serves as a city council member. This painfully specific change currently benefits one city council member and will benefit another if they manage to secure a second term on the city council. These members will be able to receive the better benefits that come along with a fireman’s pension.
Despite the fireman’s pension fund only having 21 cents of every dollar owed in benefits at the end of the fiscal year in 2017, this bill managed to pass and continue to add to the ever-growing pension crisis that Illinois is facing. Sadly, new firemen are entering into a system that is broken and taxpayers are the people who are going to need to cover the cost of a bill that positively impacts two people’s wallets in the foreseeable future.
Instead of working towards a structural reform or aiming a fire extinguisher towards the raging fire that is the Illinois pension system, lawmakers are busying themselves with trying to blow out the fire with burdens to the taxpayer – with anything from the Playstation tax to increased charges for 911 calls. Meanwhile, they are throwing more fuel on the fire with legislation like House Bill 5342.