Olsen rejects legislative pension
State Representative David S. Olsen (R-Downers Grove) proved his aggressive stance toward improving the fiscal situation of Illinois when he rejected the legislative pension as one of his first acts as a lawmaker.
The 27-year-old Republican of the Illinois House of Representatives shared that the move to withdraw from the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) is geared toward reform. Olsen has submitted the paperwork indicating his rejection of the system earlier this month.
“The pension system in Illinois is unsustainable, and I believe that as a legislator I should lead by example to show my commitment to solving the pension crisis,” Olsen explained via the Downers Grove Patch. The lawmaker continued, “It is an area of reform that will be a priority for me as I begin my tenure in the House of Representatives.”
The pension system of Illinois has undergone constant downgrades in its credit rating. It has been underfunded for years now — a situation that had it identified as the worst in the country. Moreover, the state’s credit rating hovers just beyond junk-bond status.
In his announcement, Olsen noted how the need to fund the pension system has resulted in compromising other pressing matters in the state. Given the credit rating status, the lawmaker said he aims to eliminate expenditures that could no longer be sustained by their budget. This makes the pension system the top aspect to be cut from the list.
Olsen further pointed out, “The pension obligation is crowding out other essential areas of the budget to a point where critical service areas are not receiving the levels of funding they need.”
Although Olsen decided to decline participation in the GARS, the lawmaker clarified he and others have no intention of completely disregarding the needs of the retirees. Instead, he shared that they will be exploring better and more cost effective platforms to resolve the pension crisis.
The state representative also pointed out that the range of solutions he plans to consider will not be confined to those proposed by his party. Rather, Olsen expressed his openness in hearing the suggestions of everyone from “both sides of the aisle.”
He added, “Finding a fair and Constitutionally-sound solution to the pension crisis that protects pensions for today’s retirees is imperative if we are to get Illinois’ fiscal house in order. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and with stakeholders to find the right solution.”
Earlier this month, Olsen received three new committee appointments. These are the House Education Funding Task Force; Community College Access and Affordability; and Elementary and Secondary Education, School Curriculum Policies. Apart from these, the lawmaker is also expected to be part of other committees such as those focused on public utilities, renewable energy and sustainability, judiciary issues and public/private partnerships.
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