SURS members -- not SURS itself -- donated to legislative candidate Acklin
A Feb. 29 East Central Reporter story (Ahead of pension bailout fight, Illinois public employee unions back Acklin for GOP nomination) included a technical error.
It reported that on Feb. 22, Illinois’ State Universities Retirement System (SURS) gave $2,000 to Jim Acklin, a Republican candidate for state representative.
SURS is the retirement system for state university employees, including those at the University of Illinois.
SURS itself did not give Acklin $2,000. Rather, a political action committee (PAC) for an activist association of SURS beneficiaries, the State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA), made the donation.
Thanks to SURS General Counsel and Ethics Officer Bianca Green for her letter pointing out this distinction.
On its website, SUAA describes itself as “the only advocacy organization that focuses solely on preserving pension and healthcare benefits for the public universities’ and community colleges’ employees.”
SURS provides those benefits, but requires heavy subsidies from private sector Illinois taxpayers. Via SUAA, SURS members have consistently lobbied the state legislature for more borrowing and tax increases to fund greater SURS subsidies, now required to keep it afloat.
According to the the Illinois Department of Insurance’s 2015 report on the financial health of state pension systems, as of June 30, 2014 SURS was underfunded by $20.04 billion. That’s up 186 percent from June 30, 2005, when SURS’ deficit was $7.0 billion.
SURS runs a deficit because state university employees don’t contribute enough toward the system funding their pensions.
In 2014, 69,436 employees contributed an average of $4,077 per year -- or $339 per month -- toward their pensions.
State taxpayers contributed five times as much -- or $21,644 toward the pensions of each of those employees.
State university employee pensions are the richest in Illinois. According to the Better Government Association, nine of the top 10 pension payouts are from SURS.
Leslie Heffez, who formerly ran the oral surgery program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, took home $547,862 last year from SURS. He’ll collect $17.3 million in retirement though he only contributed a total of $768,611 to his pension over 29 years of state work.
Other top SURS pensioners include:
- Former University of Illinois Athletic Director Ron Guenther ($445,937 in 2015).
- Peter Maggs, formerly a University of Illinois law professor ($414,871).
- Former University of Illinois President James Stukel ($379,213)
- Clarence Bowman, formerly president of Illinois State University ($364,055)
- Craig Bazzani, who worked as a finance executive at University of Illinois ($290,220)
Organizations in this Story