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Illinois House passes bill to slash public transit boards' pension and insurance benefits

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SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois House unanimously passed legislation Friday to eliminate pension and health insurance benefits for members of four Chicago-area public transit boards.

Passing by a 106-0 margin and now moving to the Senate, the measure seeks to eliminate benefits that House sponsor Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) calls a "state corruption tax" that board members receive for "very, very, very part-time service."

"It's a lucrative sweetheart deal that connected insiders," Franks said. "It's not what you know. It's who you know, and it's not merit based. This [bill] is making it more reflective of the real world."

Under Franks' bill, all new appointments and reappointments to the boards governing RTA, CTA, METRA and PACE would no longer receive pensions or health and life insurance packages for their time on the board. An earlier version of the proposal called for a reduced, stipend-based compensation as well, but the current bill allows board members to keep their salaries.

Some board members take in as much as $25,000 annually for their service and receive a pension and up to $20,000 in health insurance coverage for working as little as four hours per month, Franks said.

"You see them raising their fares, cutting their service. It's scandal after scandal after scandal, and there's no accountability ever. I could fill up those boards with people with real experience who'd gladly do it for free."

Spokespersons from the CTA and RTA were not immediately available for comment.

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