If only more Illinoisans knew about how their Comptroller is set to confiscate East St. Louis revenues to pay for city’s firefighter pensions — here are Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner:
On Tuesday, the East St. Louis’ firefighter pension fund demanded that Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza intercept more than $2.2 million of East St. Louis city revenues so they could be diverted to the pension fund.
The fund trustees said the city shorted firefighter pensions by $880,000 in 2017 and another $1.3 million in 2018. Under a 2011 pension law, the state comptroller gained the powers to intercept city revenues on behalf of police and fire pension funds shorted by their municipalities.
Back when Harvey was first intercepted last year, Wirepoints reported that comptroller confiscations could wreak havoc on hundreds of Illinois communities, potentially creating a domino effect. Hundreds of Illinois’ 650 pension funds have not received their statutorily required contributions from their respective cities in recent years, meaning the intercept law could go into wide usage under a broader crisis scenario. In the most recent analysis of Illinois Department of Revenue data, nearly half of the 650 funds were not properly funded in 2017 (see details below).
That domino effect could be exacerbated given that municipalities have virtually no control over their own pension funds. State law sets all the rules and pensions are protected by the Illinois Constitution, meaning that in a market downturn, the pension funds may have little choice but to demand more intercepts.
The East St. Louis firefighter fund has certified to the comptroller that the municipality didn’t fully pay its required contributions to the pension fund in 2017 and 2018. Now the Comptroller has 60 days to decide whether that’s correct. After that, it can begin confiscating East St. Louis revenues. The request by the lawyers of the firefighter fund can be found here.
Read more: Wirepoints