BELLEVILLE — Pension reform is a favorite campaign refrain of candidates across party lines. But when it comes up signing up for their own state retirement benefits, few Illinois lawmakers say no.

Of the 177 legislators in the current Illinois General Assembly, 112 signed up for a pension through the optional state retirement system. It provides an average monthly benefit of $5,512 to retirees for life. Lawmakers are eligible to retire and take benefits at age 55 with eight years of service or at age 62 with four years.

Serving in the General Assembly came with a base salary of $69,464 in 2020 and is considered a nearly full-time job, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan legislative association. Others consider it part-time.

Illinois’ pension debt for its five retirement systems, worsened by economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, set a record last year among the 50 states for its $317 billion net pension liability, a 19% increase from the previous year, according to research released Wednesday by rating firm Moody’s Investors Service.

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SOURCE (KELSEY LANDIS Belleville/The Pantagraph)