State Rep. Ugaste condemns latest pension embarrassment: 'It hurts all of us here in Illinois'
Illinois state Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) says that the case of a former union lobbyist now being able to cash in on Teacher Retirement System (TRS) pension benefits stemming from just one day of classroom work tells you everything you need to know about how things work in Springfield.
“It tells me at some point someone was really trying to take care of insiders and this is one of the ways they were trying to pay people back,” Ugaste told Kane County Reporter. “It’s obviously part of the problem. It hurts all of us here in Illinois if one man who worked only a day as a teacher is now able to get a pension.”
After spending years as an Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) lobbyist, David Piccioli took advantage of a longtime law that makes him eligible for TRS benefits based on him having earned a teacher's certificate, worked in a classroom and paid off past-due employee contributions. In a 4-3 ruling, Piccioli’s standing was upheld by the state Supreme Court in a verdict weighted by his having earned a teaching certificate and paid off $193,000 in unpaid TRS contributions he accumulated over a decades-long period.
The state high court’s ruling reaffirmed an earlier verdict that asserted retirement benefits granted to public workers cannot be "diminished or impaired" no matter the state of Illinois’ financial stability.
“When I first heard about this I was surprised, but now not so much,” said Ugaste, who won his seat in the 65th District in November with 52 percent of the vote. “But people are definitely now paying more attention to this.”
Piccioli is already receiving two other state pensions valued at nearly $70,000, and his annual TRS subsidy is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $36,000.
The 65th House District includes Batavia, Burlington, Dundee, Elgin, Geneva, Grafton, Hampshire, Plato, Rutland and St. Charles.